I ate new things!!!!

I know, I know. That NEVER happens, right? Jen, try new foods? Impossible. But I did. And Anthony and Paul are my witnesses!

On Marco’s last night here in the states, we went out to dinner with him and his family on his dad’s side (we are his Mom’s side of the family) and there was no getting around it – we were doing things the Lebanese way. No excuses, no backing out. 🙂

This is what our table looked like. Look at all that food! The empty basket in front of me was pita bread, but we ate all that!!!
Happy Brothers eating good food:

Saddie (and Paul) with her Felaflels. She loves them.

So here is a list of the new things I tried:
– Hummus
– Almond Rice
– Chicken Shawarma
– and a Lebanese dessert that I can neither spell nor pronounce, but it was essentially a rice pudding soaked in Rose Water with Bananas, Strawberries, and Honey on top. Looks like this:

My Dinner: Shish Kabab (so beef on a stick) with Almond Rice! Yummy!So, here is where it all stood on the Jen eat-o-meter: Hummus – gross. Texture and taste are just NOT for me.

Almond Rice – AH-MAZING!!!!! Loved it. Sooo good. I want to learn how to make it at home. And Saddie (Marco’s Aunt) said she’d teach me! Whoo!!!!

Shawarma – Pretty good. Not my favorite, but I’d eat it if that is what they were “serving for dinner” so that is a step in the right direction!

Dessert – YUCK! I immediately tasted the rose water and nothing else, and then the texture of a thick, sticky, rice pudding set in, and I had to wash it down with some coke!!! BUT the point is, I tried it. And they were proud of me for that. Cool!

Oh – and the first night we met them all (2 days after Marco arrived), I tried Kafta for the first time which is a ground beef mixed with a whole bunch of herbs and spices, and grilled on open flame inside a piece of pita bread. That was yummy too! Even Gaby (Anthony’s Dad) was proud of me for trying that one!

It was great fun, and we had a blast laughing about my silly eating habits. I’m so glad to have had the chance to get to know more of Anthony’s family. They are wonderful people and (now that we know where they live/how close they are!) we’ll be seeing them much more often. Cheers to new adventures!!

Take #1 – Saddie trying to feed me – a theme in Lebanese families – EAT MORE!
Ok, normal, nice family. We miss you, Marco!


Buttered Popcorn Cupcakes!

Today’s battle: MINI CUPCAKES!!!

And when I say Mini, I mean teenie-weenie!! 3 of these little babies equals one regular size cupcake! A batch of batter that makes 24 regular cupcakes made 72 (count them! 72!) Mini Cupcakes. Wowzers. And I have special cupcake pans and liners just for them! Check it out!

See! Lots of Mini Cupcakes!!!Today’s project required a LOT of work. I cut 200 mini marshmallows into 3 pieces each to make the bottom part of the pieces of popcorn. I laid them out in a leaf pattern, and then put a dab of frosting in the center of each grouping. I added a whole marshmallow on top of the frosting to complete the kernel. It was cool! They really looked like popcorn!

Buttered Popcorn means both yellow and white marshmallows. Vanilla cupcakes and vanilla frosting! Yummy!

We took them to Family Game Night to share with everyone. They were a big hit!!! And I thought they were cute! My favorite so far.

Next project is a combo! TV Dinner, Spaghetti & Meatballs, & a box of Chocolates. Yay!!! I love this project!


Weekend at Disneyland

So, Anthony’s cousin, Marco, has been visiting us from Lebanon. How fun! He’s a great guy and has been so wonderfully patient with all of our tourism shenanigans and our need to just “Go-Go-Go” in order for him to “see everything” before he leaves next week. We are sad to see him go! But we’ve had a blast while he’s been here!

Last weekend we took him to Six Flags Magic Mountain. The only photo I have of that trip (as my camera battery was dead as a door nail) is one that Marco’s other cousin, Amanda, took for me. Long story short, my childhood friend’s little Bro works at the park, found me, and told me where to find him in full costume. SO. MUCH. FUN.

So as not to stop the whirlwind of fun, we took Marco to Disneyland for two whole days!!! Day one was just me, Marco, and Anthony. We had a blast! Marco got to go on every ride he wanted to go on, and several we went on twice just for good measure.

Some of our favorites: Big Thunder Mountain, Screamin California, and Toy Story!

Marco was so happy after the ride because he won! He beat me on his first try!
See – I’m yellow, he’s Green.
On Day two, we were joined by Anthony’s Brother, Paul, his wife, Elissa, and her sister Stephanie. Family day!! Since Marco his seen it all, and the rest of us practically LIVE at Disneyland, we went on Marco’s favorites again!

Including Tower of Terror – which was SO much better when Marco suggested that he and I not hold on for the whole ride. HOLY CRAP. It was so scary. Which is what made it better, of course. Oh – and sorry to Steph that I cut you in half in this photo.
We are going to Miss you, Marco! Come back soon!!!
I will post about the Buttered Popcorn cupcakes some time this week!

My first day at Charming Pet Products

Self portrait this morning right before I left for work. Ant had already left for work, so I had to use the mirror on myself, but I think it came out ok! I wanted to show you how happy I was!! Not to mention I wanted to show off my outfit. 🙂

My bosses told me “casual” dress in our office. I’m wearing a tunic top and capri slacks. Probably one of THE most causal outfits I’ve ever worn to work anywhere since graduation, and I was still a little over dressed. (Opps! Jeans tomorrow, I guess!) On our causal Friday, I could probably get away with sweat pants and a hoodie if it was raining outside! But I won’t. Promise!

I must take a moment to point out my jewelry. The set is one of my own creations. Those lovely beads are the glass beads Anthony bought me in Venice on our honeymoon. I finally finished the set (necklace, bracelet, earings) yesterday and couldn’t wait to wear them! I actually picked out my outfit just to match the beads!

But enough about my outfit – I promised to tell you about my job!! It was great. I came in and got right to work. I made a ton of new files to organize my desk, and set up all of my computer files and apps. I helped modify some new toy designs, made a few new contacts and learned about all of our forms. Later, I ordered new pieces for our trade show booth, filled out all my starting paperwork, and opened a twitter account for the company! It was a busy day, and I still didn’t get to everything. Finally! A position that is going to keep me busy for the majority of my days, and a boss that trusts me and my skills enough to let me do my job on my own. I know they were happy with me today, and that makes it so worth it!

Tomorrow I get to bring pup to the office! This should be fun and interesting. I hope it works out! I’d love to bring him on a regular basis so he doesn’t have to sit at home all by himself all day. But that will all be up to him and his behavior. Here’s hoping!!!

Oh – and Beckie – I wore the black sandals you gave me (the ones with the cute kitten heels) and once again, they rocked! I love you!

Goodnight everyone.

Cupcake Project – Bagels and Lox

This week: Bagels and Lox. This is the picture from the book:

This is the picture of my finished Product:

What do you think? This week was fun! A little more time consuming than last week, but just as fun. I think I’m getting a little better at frosting the cupcakes, and I think my “artistic liberties” with the final product aren’t all that liberal. I think they look pretty close!

This time around, we’ve got Lemon Cupcakes with vanilla frosting. The frosting is yellow, and the cupcake acts as the “plate” for the bagel. The “bagel” is made of a mini donut with black sugar sprinkles to look like poppi seeds. The “cream cheese” is vanilla frosting, the “lox” is an orange starburst, and the “capers” are green apple licorice.

And can I just say that I LOVE my Kitchen Aid. It keeps up with everything I throw at it. Or, in it, I guess. 🙂

This time around, I used the correct size ziploc bags, and I gotta say that the book knows it’s stuff. It was EXACTLY the right amount for each batch. Genius.
See! The bag is totally empty! And the cups are all 2/3 full!
Yummy Finished Product. And for some reason, I just love this picture. Go Anthony!

My taste testing, photo taking, upside down husband.
Making the donuts and the Lox:
And Voila! Bagel and Lox!
This batch made 24 cupcakes. This time around I took the whole batch to Beckie at her office to share with her co-workers who caught wind of my project and so nicely volunteered to be taste testers! Thanks guys! Hope you liked them!!!
Next project will be later this week (in time for game night) and will be “Buttered Popcorn.”

I got a job!!!!

I thought I would post it here:


Holy cow, does that feel good. I start on Wednesday at “Charming Pet Products” here in Westlake Village, CA. It is a small company that makes dog toys and accessories and distributes to major vendors like PetSmart. Ever seen the Rubber Chicken Dog toy that makes that God-awful screeching noise? Yup – THAT’S US!

The company is owed by a lovely married couple who needed an experienced Office Manger. Well who better to fit the bill than me? So that is what I’m doing now. No more NCIS Marathons! Sad. But I’m so, so, so glad to be part of the working world again. I missed it. And now that I have no wedding to plan, I’m starting to get bored by myself at home. So this was perfect timing.

And the best parts of the job (besides it being RIGHT up my alley) are that I get to bring pup to work (as long as he gets along with the other dogs and lets me get my work done) and the office is right down the street from where Anthony works! So we’ll still get to do lunch together pretty regularly. Whooo!!

I promise to do a post on Wednesday night to tell you all about my first day. Yippie! Wish me luck!


It’s time to let go…

I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t bring myself to write it out before now. Putting my goodbye to her in writing made it final. That she isn’t just “away” or “out of sight.” She’s gone. But realizing she’s been gone almost a year now, and seeing the picture below triggered a tug in my heart I couldn’t ignore. I felt like not putting this down in writing was an insult to her memory – like I never said goodbye. And I know her – she is sitting up there, patiently waiting for me to do so. Waiting for me to say, “Ok Jo Jo” so she can leave her “Stay” position and run around in heaven.

This photo isn’t the best I have of her. But it is a special picture. It’s a photo I have from the last day I saw her. It was taken totally by chance. I didn’t take tons of random pictures of her when she was alive – I was too busy enjoying her company. But she was there when I went to try on my wedding dress for the first time, and since we were taking pictures of that, we took some pictures of her, too. She was so happy to see me. Especially after losing Kasey only a few days prior. We helped each other heal a little bit that day.

I don’t know why I couldn’t write this sooner. I owed her a proper goodbye. But I think it was my own way of keeping her close. It was my way of holding on to her just a little bit longer. I’m not delusional. I know that both of my dogs died within 2 weeks of each other. I know that I saw both of them for the last time over Thanksgiving last year. I’m very aware, physically, that they are gone.

It is sad, but it is true – it was far easier for me to let go of Kasey. I came to terms with Kacey’s death many years ago. We had to deal with reality – she was sick. My parents bought her literally YEARS of extended life. In anyone else’s care, she would have died 4 or more years ago. And don’t worry – it wasn’t the kind of extra life that is sad or pathetic and hanging on simply because we humans can’t find the strength to let go. No – She LIVED for 4 extra years. She ran, and played, and loved her little heart out until the very end. It was easy to say goodbye because I was prepared. I could let go because she had told us to be ready a long time ago. I could let go because I was the only one who really, truly got to say goodbye. I was there. She waited for me so I could tell everyone else that she was ok. She told me she was ok. There was no possible way for me NOT to let go then and there. Kasey girl made it easy.

But Jo… My Jo baby. My Princess, my Ju Ju Bee, my gorgeous girl. Nothing, not even my gut feeling that this was going to happen, could have prepared me for that phone call 12 days later. It didn’t even hit me right away – My mom was crying and said those words – “Honey, I’m sorry. She’s gone.” And I couldn’t process that sentence. With Kacey it was instant tears; the time had come. But with Jo, it was, “huh? What are you talking about? Gone where?” It took several moments to even acknowledge that anything had been said, and several more moments for it to sink in. Visions of her literally flashed in my mind. The day we brought her home. The day she met Kasey, and somehow was able to tell me that we needed to keep her. The day I left for college and the first time I really realized just how close we were. Every time I came home from school – or really any time I came home from any extended leave of absence, and the joy in her face that I was home. Her high fives and handshakes, how happy she was when I let her up on my bed, the way she looked at me when she wanted me – no – NEEDED me to pet her incessantly… all I could see for several minutes was images of Jo.

And there are so many images. I wish I could pluck them from my mind and put them together in some cool montage for you to see. She was beautiful. She was everything a dog is supposed to be. She was friendly, happy, loyal, patient and loving. And don’t ask me to explain it because I can’t. But I swear to you – I could communicate with that dog. Not just your average “Here girl” and she came, or response to her name or knowing the tone of my voice. No, seriously people. I could talk to that dog. Like she spoke clear and plain English. She had this uncanny way of telling me things. Things I needed to know. Like that Kasey was the right dog for us, or that Alyse needed me but she wasn’t going to say so, or even that Anthony was someone she trusted.

Jo was more than a dog to me. She was a friend. A real friend. She could tell when I needed her. I could be crying in my room upstairs, and she could be out in the back yard barking at a rabbit, and she would instinctively know – Jen needs me. And she’d come looking for me. She’d wait for permission to jump up on my bed and then she’d just lay down there, next to me and wait. She’d listen to my whole story, and then she’d lick my hand and nudge her head under my arm so I knew I could hug her. I’d always feel better. She was an awesome friend and companion.

I don’t know… there are moments when I’m so angry. Maybe even at her. Jo, why didn’t you say something? After all the talking we did over the years, why didn’t you tell me you were sick?! I would have helped you! I would have made it better. I would have taken care of you the way you always took care of me! I would never have let you down.

But then, I know, in my heart of hearts that you didn’t want to tell me. You didn’t want any of us to know. You took it upon yourself to take care of Kasey, and you put your own pain and suffering aside to do so. And by then, it was too late. When she was gone, you were too far along for anyone to do anything.

I’m so sorry, Jo baby. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there with you. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there to hug you and tell you I love you and to let you know it was ok. I’m so sorry I didn’t instinctively know, the way you always did, that something was wrong. But most of all I’m sorry it took me so long to say goodbye. That is the difference between dogs and humans. I had to hold on. I had to pretend that I could still hear you bounding up the stairs. I had to pretend you were still sleeping under my bed. I had to pretend that every time I cried, you’d know and send your love. But you’ve loved me, unconditionally, from the day we brought you home. And I know that didn’t stop just because you passed away.

I know you and Kasey are wherever we are supposed to end up. I know you are there, waiting so patiently for me. I know, without a doubt that you found Kasey right away, and you helped her find our home in heaven. I know that, no matter how long it takes me to get there (and I’m sorry it will be such a long time before I get to see you again) that you will never, ever leave. I know you’ll wait. I know you’ll be there to welcome me home and it will be like nothing ever changed. Play with as many figure 8 toys as you can find while you wait for me.

I love you so much, Jo. My little black bear. I think about you all the time. I miss you, and you will always, always hold a special spot in my heart.

“Ok Jo Jo. It’s ok.”