Busy Season: business trips, Christmas prep and a winner (chicken dinner!)


Last week was crazy busy for me. My Mettaprints partner Teri and I took on a huge spray-painting of silver snowflakes job for a big event in Santa Clara. Every year we vow not to do these kinds of jobs because they are so much work  and every year we somehow get amnesia and decide that we should take on another job like this because we are crafty and fun! And that is all very true but crafty and fun with spray paint for four days straight can get very old and tiring. Let’s just say it’s a good thing Teri and I are great friends and we always have a fun time together. Even when we are in the trenches.


On the bright side, who can complain about working in these conditions? I mean trees everywhere like that? Have you ever seen a prettier place to work? I guess an ocean view would be nice but the canyon is just drop dead gorgeous. I love it there. I wish it wasn’t a 30 minute drive for me or I would set up office in Teri’s downstairs permanently.


We worked for four days straight and then early Monday morning, at the crack of four am, we loaded up a rental van with all our pretty snowflakes and embarked on an epic Mettaprints trip. We worked too hard on those snowflakes to trust shipping them and after all, Santa Clara is just a four hour drive away. We figured, no sweat! Let’s make a business trip out of it!mettaprints-to-santa-clara-1

Except we both had so much going on this week that we decided to do all the driving in ONE DAY so that we could get back home quickly. We are lunatics but we also have a great work ethic.

I woke up at 2am on Monday morning, so worried I was going to be late and didn’t go back to sleep until 2 am the next day. I guess doctors can stay up for 48 hours straight but I am no doctor. I was wrecked. It was super fun while we were driving. Teri and I talked a blue streak both ways but the next day on no sleep I was a basket case! It’s funny how a lack of sleep can seriously alter your brain chemistry. I actually felt like I had really bad PMS and broke down crying four times over the stupidest things!  We probably should have stopped somewhere and spent the night but it is what it is and the snowflakes made it to their destination!


There we are at the Levi stadium! I don’t know much about the client or the event these snowflakes were for (that’s Teri’s job) but it was pretty cool to drive around to the back of the stadium to their super security-guarded loading zone and have a bomb sniffing dog go through our van.  Then we loaded everything onto golf carts and kissed our hard work goodbye with worried visions of our snowflakes sliding off the golf carts and onto the ground, crushing their delicate snowflake corners. The guys working there humored us with promises to be careful while they inwardly rolled their eyes. But I think everything turned out okay.


Then back home we went to our regularly scheduled programming: Christmas! Actually these photos were taken before we left but I wanted to get that story out of the way first since it was big news around here.

I had so much fun decorating the house with the kids this year. It’s our second year together as a family and things are starting to feel normal instead of new. I love that we have traditions now. We have a fake tree (that I resent because it doesn’t smell pretty like a real tree but I love because I hate paying $$$ for a real tree and I hate that a real tree has to die etc.) and we have special ornaments that we love. I was busy putting up my milk carton village so I didn’t do much with the tree but Payam put it up and fluffed it and all that and the girls decorated in between phone sessions. decorating-for-xmas-2016-2

You know, because phones are like life support these days. I can’t criticize though. They love their phones just as much as Payam and I love ours. It’s just the new normal. We are constantly checking ours too. They don’t have phone service yet but they manage to have just as many things to check as we do with just wifi.


It’s our first Christmas with the dogs! Good times! As you can see we haven’t really figured out how to keep Cody from eating all the ornaments yet or Whiskey from darting under the tree to hunt the cat that he thinks is there but is not.  The dogs are crazy but we are starting to turn a corner on training and they actually do listen when we tell them no now. We let them roam the house more and more so they aren’t quite as crazy bananas running all over stealing things to chew on as much as they used to. Of course we still have our trouble spots (i.e.: laundry, cloth napkins, hand towels, Bug’s stuffed animals…) but they are getting better.decorating-for-xmas-2016-4

And really, is there nothing so cozy and Christmassy as a Dog sleeping next to your tree? I think it completes us. We did buy another dog fence to put around the tree so we can actually have a fire in the fireplace instead of cardboard from mettaprints blocking it. I plan to break out the camera many more times and get some pictures of the dogs, the tree, the kids AND a fire in the fireplace. I’m really happy with Christmas this year. It’s going to be a good one I think.


And last but not least, I have winners of the mom’s magical headache cure bottles! Payam picked them. You can yell at him if you didn’t win.

The winners are:

  1. Ines!
  2. Heather!
  3. Jennifer Krause!
  4. Susie! and…
  5. Tamara Lang!

Get me your addresses via email (secretagentjo@gmail.com) and I will ship these out. I’m not promising any timeliness with my shipping but the little bottles are sitting on my desk taking up space and bugging me so I think I will be not forgetting about them. I also want to note that I made this concoction on the weak side just to be safe so if it doesn’t work magically for you, do not give up on essential oils. You might just need a stronger solution.

Bug took her’s to school on frog dissection day because she has a phobia of people puking.  She played nurse all day running around letting her classmates sniff her peppermint oil and it worked for them so I’m thinking you will find many uses for your winnings!  :)

That’s all! Happy Christmassing! I am a wrapping fiend these days, you?

Another Slow News Day! Let’s tour the garden. Zzzzz….


It’s raining today which is BIG fat news here in Southern California, Land of the Everlasting Drought. We are all very confused by this weather. It’s wet and inconvenient.  We don’t have any kind of overhangs in our backyard to keep our puppies from sleeping in puddles. Why would they want to sleep in puddles?! We don’t have mud rooms either for them to dry off their wet muddy feet after a mucky walk in the rain.  Amazingly, I do have a raincoat (thanks to a purchase for my Japan trip) but I do not have rain boots! I want to get the kids rain boots (because walking in wet grass in vans is the pits) but I know they’ll probably only wear them once (if that) before they outgrow them because it NEVER RAINS here! It’s all very puzzling and worrisome. But we don’t need to adapt or anything because it will be gone by tomorrow.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying my nice fuzzy sweater, my heater under my desk, my third cup of coffee and Lucy sleeping on my laptop bag beside me. Cold weather is cozy.


Hey Lucy. Nice window seat you have there. It’s so funny, this window used to be blocked by the expedit bookcase that is now our new and improved office divider. So now that the window is open, Whiskey parks himself outside this window and stalks the cat. He is a terrier through and through and lives and breaths to hunt the cat.  Did I tell you about the moth and rat incident? I thought surely I had but I just looked through my archives and I can’t find hide nor tail of it. Weird.

Anyway, a few months ago when it was still summer, Lucy became quite the outdoor hunter. She wasn’t supposed to be an outside hunter of course because we have coyotes where we live and anyone who knows anything does not let their cats outdoors at night. But there was a hole in the screen door in our bedroom, thanks to the puppies, and Lucy soon discovered that it was the best thing ever. Freedom!

Lucy is a very, very skittish cat (to the point of almost being feral)and super fast so we told ourselves that she could probably escape a coyote if one ever tried to eat her. We can never catch her, Whiskey can never catch her. Even our neighbors who like to write mean notes about us on Nextdoor about being bad cat owners cannot catch her (thank God.)  Lucy has pretty good odds. So we let this outdoor hunting go on for a few days while we scrambled to figure out a screen door fix. Closing the slider was out of the question because it was SUMMER and we have no other windows or doors in our bedroom.

Then much to our dismay, Lucy caught a black witch moth and brought it into the house at who knows what hour of night and woke poor Bug up with the frightening sounds of a kitten-sized moth fluttering around the corners of her room. It was terrifying! I hate moths anyway but a six-inch death omen moth!!! Yes, I googled it and apparently in Mexico they are believed to be omens of death, especially if they fly to all four corners of your room. Thankfully, we’ve lived a month or two since this happened so I think we’re good.

That happened twice. Then Lucy caught a mouse or a small rat and let it go in Bug’s room. Bug freaked. It’s not that she’s so much afraid of mice or rats but the rat POOPED IN HER ROOM (probably from fear) and then hid behind her desk and bookcase. I know bringing in your kill is a sign of love from a cat but Bug was not feeling the love AT ALL.

We couldn’t get the rat out of Bug’s room. It lodged itself deep behind Bug’s bookcase and into all of her various crap that lived next to her bookcase. So we decided to bring in the big guns and let Whisky have a go at it. He didn’t do a very good job but boy was he excited and focused! It was like he was finally able to realize his true purpose in life. His Irish ancestors were bred to catch vermin on farms and now realize his true potential!!  He ended up chasing the rat down the hallway and into the living room where it hid behind another expedit bookcase (How many expedit bookcases do we have?!) and from there we were able to use a broom and sweep it out the dining room sliding glass door.

All ended well and no animals were hurt but one kid was traumatized and one screen door got barricaded with a piece of dog crate. The puppies have reduced us to Shanty Town in so many ways.

Whisky has never been the same since. Every time he gets lose he either goes straight to the closet (where Lucy likes to hide) or straight to Bug’s room to sit by her desk where there was once upon a time a rat. Because it might happen again!! Silly dog.


Back to the garden. That’s where I was going originally with this post. As you know, because I have documented it a few hundred times, the puppies have eaten all my plants. I have moved most of them up to table tops and the rest have become fiber in Cody’s poop. But! I have learned through process of elimination that the dogs don’t really eat my cacti. The spikes might have something to do with it. They also don’t eat my serrano peppers.


I decided to un-plant my many pots of aloe vera (those things multiply like bunnies) and replant them into the planters that used to house beautiful, lush palm trees which have been eaten down to nubs. Yeah, it looks like a hurricane hit it now but I predict these hearty aloe vera plants will perk up and propagate throughout the whole planter box and it will become a lovely, spiky bed of greenery. Not Payam’s or my idea of what we wanted to do there but puppy-times call for desperate measures. Consider this the before picture.


And speaking of Shanty Town, we also put this really classy fence up around our baby pomelo, mandarin and nectarine trees. All the trees have been heavily pruned by Cody and will forever hold a bonsai-like beauty in their crooked, not-usually-found-in-nature shaped branches. It is what it is. I’m just really happy the pomelo tree survived at all because pomelos are what Brendaritas are made from!


In other news! Did you know I have a test kitchen? Not really but from time to time I post recipes on alphamom and they usually involve experimenting in the kitchen, not something I’m really good at but I try. I wanted to invent some cookies like these. Please do go look at that link if you at all a foodie because I want you to behold the beautiful magenta of those spiced fenugreek beet baked mathri. Yes, I realize they are crackers and not cookies but why couldn’t I make them into cookies? It wouldn’t be that hard to switch them from savory to sweet would it?

Apparently it is because I failed like a mad, mad woman. It was horrible. I made brown turd cookies. The first batch was NOT purple at all and they were thin and sticky like those really cool lace cookies except they didn’t harden they just stayed sticky and when you raised one to your mouth it folded over in your hand like limp banana peel. The second batch I cut the butter and sugar in half and they turned into dry, tasteless brown turds. There was no magenta or purple at all!  Now this could be because I used grated beets ala this recipe and not beet juice but I don’t understand why beet juice would color something and grated beets would not. Do I suspect the beet juice is chock-full of food coloring? Yes, I do!

Unfortunately my deadline came and went and I never got a chance to experiment with any beet juice but I did push my dry-tasteless cookie dough into a cake pan and topped it with a gooey mixture of butter, walnuts and molasses that was actually downright delicious. I also put a ton of ginger in the dough. I failed to mention that earlier but it is an interesting detail later because the grated ginger has the texture of cat hair when it’s mixed into dough which means I made walnut-encrusted molasses beet ginger brown-turd cake with cat hair inside it!  I win.