Sunday, January 31, 2010

Good Friends

Every so often it’s good for a girl to get away with a few of her good friends. It’s an enriching time, and a time of building relationships and becoming in tune to one another. And it’s especially a time to laugh together and learn lots of things, such as:

  • Hot coffee should not be microwaved for two minutes.
  • Dee can talk anybody into buying anything.
  • Four hours in IKEA with only a breakfast cookie is too long.
  • There is more than one way to get to Bellevue Square, but you will still get there.
  • There is a Safeway Beverage Headquarters in Bellevue…somewhere sort of close to Bellevue Square.
  • A piece of Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache, shared between four friends at the Cheesecake Factory, is somewhat akin to drinking together, given the conversations that followed consumption of said cheesecake. Of course, I wouldn’t know anything about “drinking together.”
  • Somebody has been to alcoholic counseling, and then picked up garbage for 3 weeks to avoid having the college call her mother. But the beer cans weren’t hers. Really. Her wild oats were all sown loooong before that. (Mom, it wasn’t me.)
  • A girls-only cruise sounds like a lot of fun, for reasons that shall not be published.
  • Somebody is tanning nude, and it isn’t one of us.

_MG_8108 Me and the table I found that is (hopefully) going to be perfect for an extra homework space for our children, especially Sarah.

_MG_8110 The common purchase of the day was stainless steel colanders, and we posed with them in our favorite white kitchen. I don’t know why the colanders are on our heads. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

_MG_8114 Clifford-rear-end-hooks were Dee’s find of the day. Thankfully she found them in black later, so now it won’t look like Clifford is wagging his tail with his head stuck in the wall.

_MG_8115 Our loaded down van. Not too bad. I think we could have fit one more person.

_MG_8116 The famous, delicious, always-to-be-remembered Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake with Chocolate Ganache.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Eat From the Pantry Challenge

Remember this? It’s been going pretty good. We actually made it through pretty much the entire month, with the exception of the days we spent in California, eating only from the freezer and the pantry. We haven’t had any weird goolash meals like Dee, thankfully. The only yucky meal we had was short ribs in the crock pot and that was really only because we just plain don’t like short ribs. We’ve even had some new recipes. And even Elise eating nothing but chocolate in recent days hasn’t deterred us. We have purchased only the non-stockpile-able, perishable, and must-have items. (Like tortilla chips. These are impossible to stockpile and there are never enough in the pantry).

But now, NOW I am ready to be done. I plan to celebrate by going out for dinner tonight. No cooking for me, no dishes for Ed, everybody eats whatever they want.

There is another reason to go out to dinner and celebrate, though. As most of you know, Ed has worked as a software developer for the best. company. in. the. world. for almost 15 years now, not including his summer as an intern. Ed works hard and they are so good to their employees. This past week the boss took Ed and a few other guys on a strategic planning retreat for a few days. Not only did they emerge with some major vision for the future, but Ed was given some new responsibilities and a new title! Ed is now the Software Architect for the entire company, which means he oversees the structure of the code for all departments. I think. I mean, I know that’s his title, I’m just a little unclear on what that means he oversees. Only other computer geeks *truly* know what it means. I’m just happy we get to go out to dinner to celebrate!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Things that made me smile this week

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One can now buy daffodils at the store.

_MG_8070 My necklaces are now untangled and accessible and organized, thanks to my friend Beth who gave me the idea for this necklace hanger that I made myself. Thanks for the board, Dad!

_MG_8071 Note to self: if it’s 30 degrees outside and you serve frozen go-gurt to the girls for a snack, serve with mittens.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Basketball

I haven’t been to a basketball game of Sarah’s in a while. Bethany had pneumonia, then there were a couple weeks off for Christmas, then Elise had pneumonia, then last week we were gone…so…I was excited to go last Saturday. Sarah has the unfortunate ability to always be on the worst team in the league. I really don’t think it has too much to do with the fact that she is on the team…it’s just the combination of girls. Her team has two girls with height, and only a couple that can shoot. Compare that to the team we played Saturday: 4 with height and one that could handle the ball like no other 6th grader I’ve ever seen. So, Sarah’s team lost. Again. They have yet to win. Saturday it was 22-11. Sarah did have 4 of those 11 points, so she did her share. She even had a rebound, but she started off kind of slow and getting into trouble with that girl on the other team that can handle the ball. So the coach moved her to a different position. But Sarah’s always putting in 100% effort and she’s improving bit by bit.

I do worry about next year, when she can try out for the school team. I know there are quite a few girls in her grade that are good at basketball and they play on these select teams (& they’re all best friends with each other) and such. It’s pretty ridiculous – traveling all over the state for tournaments every other weekend for an 11-year-old. Thankfully, while Sarah loves basketball, she loves other things, too. I would love for her to have the opportunity to play on a team for school – there’s just something about that…practicing with her classmates every day, riding on a bus and competing as a school team. It’s a good experience to have once, if you enjoy the sport. Sarah enjoys the sport. I just pray that she will get that chance once, but that if she doesn’t, we’ll both have the grace to accept it and move on and learn from the experience. There will be lots of opportunities for a girl like Sarah, in many different arenas. I’m so proud of how she’s growing up – she loves life and everything she does, she’s kind and loving and considerate and giving, she’s fun and smart. She’s a little scatter-brained once in a while, but that’s good teasing fodder. ;)

Anyway, enough mush and gush about Sarah. Here’s a couple pictures from Saturday’s game…she did not make that free-throw, but it pretty much went around the rim and popped back out, so it was close, and her form was decent. The second picture shows a ball in the air, which does score a basket and she did shoot it…she’s just mostly behind other players in the pictures.

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Yay, Sarah!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Gratituesday, January 26, 2010

After Sarah was born, I became a GEMS counselor. I had been a Calvinette as a young girl and it had a profound impact on my life. (Calvinettes was a ministry of the Christian Reformed Church for young girls. The name changed to GEMS {Girls Everywhere Meeting the Savior} in 1995, and better encompasses the interdenominational, worldwide ministry it has become). I wanted to work with girls, use my teaching knowledge, and ensure a good GEMS program for my daughter as she grew up. God definitely called me into the GEMS ministry.

When Bethany was born, I said to Ed, “Now I really have to work hard to keep the GEMS program up!”

When Becca was born, we knew we were in for a world of female-ness, both in our volunteer work and in our home.

When Elise was born, Ed just shook his head and said, “We’re lifers.”

Today I am grateful for my husband, who makes my GEMS ministry into our ministry. From the very beginning, he has been at home, with the girls, while I go off to GEMS. I took one year off –our first year here, the year I was pregnant with Elise – but then joined back in again at our new church and he still never complains about staying home with the little girls while I do GEMS. He never complains about meetings or conferences that have me flying all over the country. (Of course, here I must also express thanks for my parents, who usually take the girls when I go to the summer conferences so that Ed doesn’t have to take vacation days). But Ed just holds down the fort and makes it possible for me to be part of this incredible ministry. I could not serve in this way without him.

It is truly OUR ministry because of the way he selflessly serves at home.

Pictures of OUR girls having fun at GEMS last night:
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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Play-dough RoCkS

After coming back from vacation last week, I had A LOT to do. I STILL have A LOT to do. But, I was fairly productive on Tuesday (unpacked, did laundry, did some general reorganizing and figuring out where we are at in our lives) thanks to a little bit of homemade play-dough from friend Beth.

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First, Elise made this little tiny snail. Then Becca had to make a big snail.

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Then Becca made an entire snail family.

_MG_7999 And so did Elise! Do you see how I was grateful for the play-dough?! It took a LONG time for them to make all those itty bitty snails. They had to break off a small piece and roll it and roll it and roll it. And then they had to curl it up like a snail.

And they’re pretty darn cute snails. We even kept some as pets.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Day Four – CA Trip

On our last day in SoCal, it was raining. :( We had Panera bagels for breakfast – those are YuMmY. We need a Panera around here. I could have those once a week for sure. Then the kids played a bit, Carter napped, I packed. Sarah had finally gotten her DVD of her 6th grade musical, so we watched some bits and pieces of that – her solo, and a couple of the favorite songs. I cried all over again. Sheesh. Then we headed out to Uncle Mikey’s gym for about an hour of good energy-exerting fun. Nice thing to do before a two-hour drive to the airport and a 3-hour plane ride! Lunch at Rubio’s and then we had to say good-bye until next time.

Click here to see pictures from Day Four January 2010 CA Trip

And for the last time, ENJOY!!

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming…

Can I just say?

I liked being on vacation better than I like editing pictures from vacation.

Time to start planning the next vacation.

Friday, January 22, 2010

CA Trip – Day Three

On Saturday after Kennedy’s birthday party, we headed over to my brother Mike’s place. We had the pleasure of eating at an In-N-Out on the way (Ed has a picture on his iphone, but I don’t know how to get it on here yet…) and then waited at their house for them to get back from their dinner with Susanne’s dad who was in the area for work. Not much time to socialize that night for the kids, but the guys stayed up and played Wii for awhile. Sunday morning was church, then a few errands, a yummy lunch, trampoline time, visiting Grandma, playing Wii, and ENJOYING EACH OTHER! What a great day! Here is the link to the web album for Day Three! Enjoy once again!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

CA Trip – Day Two

On our second day in CA, we just hung out for most of the day…played inside, played outside, took pictures…and then in the afternoon headed to the gymnastics place for Kennedy’s birthday party. So fun to celebrate a cousin’s birthday in person!

Here’s the link to Day Two photos: Day Two January 2010 CA Trip

Again, enjoy!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

CA trip - Day One

It’s taken me a while to get to the pictures from our recent trip to CA to visit family. I came home from our vacation to find, not surprisingly, many things we had left undone since we started packing for the trip, and it all kind of slapped me in the face, back into reality, and I haven’t had the time to do much with the pictures! I think I like vacation life better.

So here’s a link to the web album from our first day in CA: Day One January 2010 CA Trip

Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gratituesday

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Only missing cousin Elias… :( We’ll get you next time!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Only time for a must-see photograph

Mom, this is for you. Check out Michael’s hair:

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Day one with cousins

Just a few of my favorite pictures from today…
_MG_7105 These two have been the best of friends since our arrival.

_MG_7160 It’s a Ball Fountain! I love how both Becca’s feet are off the ground!

_MG_7161 (Almost) all of us by our fountain…get it? ;)

_MG_7298Aunt Jacq said…”They can play in the fountain. They’ll only get a little wet.”

Right.

_MG_7319  Here’s the precious baby that we finally got to meet!

_MG_7344And, oh, she is a sweetie. And she looks like her siblings. And her Aunt Julie made her laugh earlier this evening. We are loving these moments.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Life is short

In just one week, the community in which we live has been jarred by four separate tragedies (that I know of). A murder-suicide, a young father killed in a farming accident, another father dying of sudden heart attack, and a 5-month-old baby (who doesn't live here, but whose parents both grew up here, thus there is lots of family here) dying of SIDS this morning. I do not know any of these people...I just know people who know or are related to these people. It is heart-breaking and gut-wrenching and so painful. A lady I was talking to at Bible Study this morning said, "At times like these, I just have to go through the facts: God is sovereign. God is in control. God is good. God loves me. God loves my family. God will take care of us. I just have to keep going through the facts." These are facts that we as Christians know and believe in and there is nothing else that can sustain us during these difficult days. It doesn't answer the why's or the questions of how life will go on. But it sustains.

We have seen that life is short. We will lose people we love. So do me and yourself a favor: tell people you love them, spend time with them, look them in the eyes, have no regrets. If you can, listen to Point of Grace's song "How you live." Take it to heart. Do what it says. Then abide by the two greatest commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind. Love your neighbor (all people) as yourself.

I don't mean to simplify the tragedies. I'm sorry if it sounds like that. I'm mostly just trying to remind myself that God is good all the time and to relish in the blessings He has given for as long as I have them here on this earth.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Gratituesday 1/12/10

I meant to start this weekly feature on my blog last week, but I forgot. Simple as that.
Things I am grateful for today:
1. My crockpot – it saves me on busy days and makes Ed think I was home all day cooking a delicious meal just for him.

2. Antibiotics – with the second child in a month down with pneumonia…need I say more?

3. Slippers, Curious George, and fleece blankets.

4. Coffee with cream  & sugar, whatever homemade goodies my friend is baking up for our scrapbooking day together today, my friends, pretty paper, pens, stickers, and pictures of some of my favorite memories that I plan to put into a scrapbook so that all of my descendants will always know who everyone is and what we did and who was related to who, so they won’t have to play Dutch bingo for hours on end with only minimal success.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Elise-isms

**Elise has been sick the past few days. At dinner tonight (note the date: January 9) she prayed, “Thank you God that I will be better by Christmas.”

**Wanting me to help her pasta cool off at dinner, she requested, “Mom, will you please blow these up?”

**While helping me put dirty clothes into the washing machine, Elise said, “Wow, Mom. This is hard work.”

I said, “Yeah, it is.” She said, “Hm. I’m tired. My back really hurts, too.”

(I swear I have never said that while doing laundry!)

Happy Birthday, Dee!

Today is my friend Dee’s birthday. Little did I know when I met a young doctor for the first time after he dropped off his then 3rd grade daughter at Sunday School at Bethel for the first time, and I had just dropped off my then second-grade and Kindergarten daughters at Sunday School at Bethel for the first time, just over 4 years ago, that his wife would become one of my most cherished blessings since moving “back home.”

Since she has a public blog and isn’t worried about posting anything on the world wide web for all to see…

Happy Birthday, Dee! I know. I owe you a coffee.

(Elise just climbed up on my lap and I asked her who is in that picture. She said, “That’s Katie!” I told her it’s Katie’s Mom and she said, “It looks like Katie, Mom. I’m serious.”)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Photography Goals for 2010

I subscribe to a couple of photography newsletters. One recently had a post about 30 photography goals for 2010. Here are just 4 from that list that I hope to do for myself:

1. Smile: Photos in your daily life.

Most New Years resolutions include spending more time with friends and family. Take a photographer’s spin on this one, and make it a priority to take casual photos of your friends and family on a day-to-day basis. Capturing memories for others is commendable, but capturing memories for yourself is priceless.

I pretty much already do this, but I want to keep it a top priority.

2. Compete!

Submitting your photos to competitions is one of the greatest ways to get your photos off your hard drive and into the sights of important judges and industry leaders. Remember, it’s not about who you know, but who knows you!

I hope to enter at least one photograph in the NW Fair this coming August. I don’t know what yet – maybe I have yet to take it! I have no expectations about becoming a professional photographer in any sense of the word, nor do I care about “industry leaders”, but I do think it’d be fun to work towards a photo deserving of entry.

3. Take monthly photo walks

Do you take photos to relax? Sometimes amid the tension of photographing for business, or photographing for development, (or the busy-ness of life) it’s easy to forget the enjoyment of photography. Return to the joy by scheduling an afternoon or an hour to walk through a new town, trail, or area and find inspiration. Your eyes will be opened in a new way, and you will remember the euphoria of creative discovery.

Who wants to join me?

4. Take a workshop

There is no shortage of professional photographers wanting to give back through workshops. You can find workshops of all kinds, levels, and price points. Want to get away for a weekend? Or study at your own pace? You can find a workshop on location or online and continue the transformational journey of your photography in an unforgettable and rewarding way.

Not sure when or where or what yet, but I so enjoyed my class last year, so maybe one per year would be less than excessive…

 

Thursday, January 7, 2010

More gifts, some secrets, and a flashback

This past Sunday was the end of Christmas for the girls. My folks brought back gifts from their aunt & uncle in CA and they got to open them on Sunday. So much fun to have one more gift to open before reality hit on Monday morning!

_MG_6767 Books for Sarah (my voracious reader and book collector). She was thrilled!

_MG_6790 A warm and colorful scarf for Bethany, the beauty & comfort girl.

_MG_6779 Clothes for school for the one who LOVES to go to school.

_MG_6798 Slippers that match the slippers for her American Girl Doll for my drama queen.

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One of Bethany’s friend’s mom’s introduced us to “Secret Keeper Girl”, a Christian book of dates for moms to do with their tween daughters. She invited us to join her and her daughter in working through the book (on our own) and then meet together for date #6 (shopping with friends). We decided to go ahead and do it with Bethany and also with Sarah and we invited one of Sarah’s friend’s and her mom to join us! We had our first Secret Keeper Girl dates during Christmas break, which involved a tea party and talk about being the beautiful masterpiece that God has created and that God is working on! We’re ALL looking forward to date #2!

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And finally, this morning I had a flashback to my childhood. I remember vividly (plus my mom tells the story all the time, so if I didn’t remember vividly, I would at least think that I remember it) playing with my Little People (which in those days were the skinny, wood, choking-hazards) and setting them all up on the open space at the top left side of the town and I would play that they would go to church. I would have them sing hymns and everything! So this morning, I was making lunches and this is what I observed Elise doing:

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All the Little People, gathered on the top left side of the castle. And you guessed it, they’re at church. Do you know what they’re singing? Ere Zij God. Apparently language has no barriers in this house.

Monday, January 4, 2010

They shall come rejoicing…

We have one of those quirky kids’ Bible songs CD’s…you know the kind…lots of oldies but goodies and some strange ones, too. For example, it has “The Wheels on the Bus” only in this version the driver says “Go to church” instead of “Move on back”, etc. It kind of makes mothers wish they had earplugs, but it keeps preschoolers entertained. So, anyway, Elise was listening to this CD in the van on our way to Costco this morning. The song “Bringing in the Sheaves” came on (it’s the one they always sang on Little House on the Prairie) and she was singing along happily…

“Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves
They shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves”

As the song ends, she says, “Wow. They must really love CHEESE!”

It took me approximately 4.7 seconds to figure out that she was talking about those people in the song, coming rejoicing, bringing in the cheese.

Oh, Elise. You are tooooo funny.

And Happy Birthday today to my brother-in-law, whose wedding I bawled like a baby at simply because the whole thing was so beautiful and because he and his wife were and are so in love. He’s a great husband, dad, brother, and uncle and we can’t wait to see him soon! Here he is this past summer with all my kids and his kids piled on him. We love that guy!
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Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Grey Card and a Reader

Ed got me a grey card for Christmas. Isn’t it neat?_MG_6752Warning: This next paragraph is for those interested in photography. 

IT IS NEAT!  A photographer uses a grey card to fix white balance. Basically, since the camera isn’t as smart as our brains, it has a hard time adjusting white balance in different lighting situations. This is why sometimes your indoor pictures look orange or sometimes blue…depending on the lighting. Usually you can set white balance on your camera, but often it still isn’t quite right. However, grey card is a color that is a true and accurate representation of the physical qualities of the light illuminating the card. The photographer takes a picture of the grey card right before taking a picture in a certain lighting situation. Then, in post-production, on the computer, you use the photo of the grey card to set the white balance in the rest of the pictures in that setting. It’s super easy – two clicks of the mouse on the right spots and it’s done. I don’t fully understand it, but I do know that it makes it easier to adjust white balance for two reasons.

1. I don’t have to trust my eyes to get the right color.

And 2. I don’t have to trust my monitor (since monitors can have different color tones).

Here is the picture I took right after the grey card photo and then adjusted according to the grey card reading._MG_6754To me, it’s a little blue-toned. Grey cards cause pictures to look like daylight and of course this scene didn’t really look like daylight to my eyes when I took the picture. It was at night, with minimal interior lighting.

So, with this next picture, I used the grey card reading and then bumped it up a tad to look more like the scene looks like in my mind._MG_6759Either way, it looks much better than the actual photograph that my camera took. I’m happy and excited to learn to use it.

AND either way, you must notice what is happening *in* those pictures! Becca is READING! She has begun to really catch on to sounding out words AND sight words, and over Christmas break she has taken on the challenge of reading that entire book on her own. She has just about accomplished that task. It is called “The Biggest, Best Snowman” and you should definitely read it. Becca can.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy Palindrome Birthday, Baby Brother!

Today is my baby brother’s birthday. Everyone knows that the “baby of the family” is always the spoiled one – the one who gets to do everything as a teenager that his older siblings were not allowed to do, the one who is perfect in the eyes of the parents, etc. Sadly, this is not the case for my baby brother. No sir. He was oppressed. Seriously. I never even knew this until recently, but the poor child was forced to do SO. MANY. CHORES. once my older brother & I were out of the house. He had to do all of his chores, plus all of ours. Man. My chores involved cleaning my bathroom and vacuuming the kitchen. Hm. Randy’s chores were vacuuming the living room and…um…not sure. Wow. I couldn’t believe it when I heard he was forced to do so much work and shoulder the weight of being the only slave child at home anymore. And all this time, I assumed the huge dish of ice cream Dad served him every night was just because he was spoiled. How could I have been so wrong? Oh, maybe because I had ice cream about…twice, other than birthdays, when I lived at home. But I’m not bitter or anything, because he certainly deserved the ice cream after such wrongful treatment.

I tried my darndest to find an embarrassing or dorky picture of my baby brother. But of course, I only have cute pictures on my computer because those are the ones I chose for my parents’ anniversary album I made last summer. So, this is as dorky as it gets:

scan0018I chose it because it reminded me of my nephew just a little bit.

And, in case you haven’t figured out the palindrome birthday yet…Palindromes are words spelled the same forwards as backwards…like Anna or Mom. Today is a palindrome: 01-02-2010. I take no credit for coming up with that on my own. Saw it on Facebook.

Happy birthday, Mike. I’m so glad that you don’t hold it against me that you had to do all my chores when I moved out. You’re a great brother, husband, dad, coach, teacher, uncle, and friend. Thanks for being so involved in my kids’ lives and for being so giving and fun.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Eat From The Pantry Challenge

A friend pointed me to yet another money-saving, coupon-clipping blogger, Faithful Provisions. This gal seems to have taken on the coupon mania as pretty much a part-time job. She introduced me to this Eat from the Pantry Challenge. Basically, you buy nothing at the store except for necessities, dairy, produce, etc. You just use up what you already have and plan your meals around that. I think it sounds like a great idea…except for it’ll be really tough to not go after all those fantastic money-saving deals for a whole month…But maybe in the long run it’ll save me lots of time and it will help me clean out my shelves and get them organized, right?

We’re going to do it slightly differently, however…we’re only doing it for two weeks for now. And the Sunday dinner that I have to prepare for family doesn’t count. That’s it. Those are our only exceptions. Maybe we’ll do it for another two weeks in a month or so, depending on how this goes. Some of the bloggers I’ve read wrote about how they were stocking their pantry this past week in preparation for this task. That seems to be contrary to the point of the challenge, in my opinion. I did not do that. I will just use what I already have beginning with this day. It’ll be easy for the next couple days, I think…considering how many leftovers we have in this house.

Ed’s challenging me to use up the oldest stuff first. So that means I gotta go see what’s in all the cupboards and in the freezer. I sorted the garage pantry shelves the other day, so I know what’s there at least. I can tell you one thing…we are not going to run out of peanut butter, thanks to someone who shall remain nameless looking for peanut butter in the pantry and saying, NOPE, there isn’t any there, causing me to buy peanut butter at Costco, only to put it away and find 3 unopened jars! If I need to do any baking, I imagine it’ll involve peanut butter.