Tuesday, May 23, 2017

How do you say "YUM!" in French?

Here’s the deal with French food.  I love it.  I love it too much and will eat until I am sick, like a dog with a stack of steaks.
I love the sauces, I love the ingredients, and I most of all love that you are basically eating art.  Here are just a few examples caught on camera before I inhaled them on our recent trip to France:
And believe me, there were more.  I even love the fact that Du Pain Et Des Idees, a little bread bakery in Paris, has this for its ceiling:
I cannot find its equal in the U.S.
At Pierre Herme they will design a dessert for you that reflects the personality of your company.  And you could swoon over their macarons, fall to the ground and hit your head.  They’re that good.
at Amorino in Paris they even sculpt ice cream into a rose:
HOWEVER, drum roll please, my daughter did the sweetest thing, no pun intended.  She made me a fabulous cake for Mother’s Day.  And this is no mere fete.  It’s Verden’s Beste Kake, the national cake of Norway, which translates to The World’s Best Cake. 
When she pronounces it, it sounds even better.  It’s layers of sponge cake (that taste like pound cake), meringue, cream, custard, almonds, and fruit.  You bake the meringue and the cake together at the same time—wow! 
So maybe I can survive without a trip to France for awhile.  Piece of cake.
And what goes better with cake than a great book to read? Order any one of my 25 books here and curl up with a generous serving!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Parlez vous Cat & Apple?

          I recently went to France on a vacation with two of my children.  To prepare for this wonderful holiday, I went online to learn as much French as I could cram into my middle-aged brain.
          Guess what I learned how to say? “The cat is calm” and “the men are eating an apple.”  I shared this with a friendly French TSA agent, who kindly said, “Yes, but when would you use zees phrases?”  THANK  YOU—that is exactly what I’d like to know.
          First of all, calm cats don’t elicit much commentary, unless you are a burglar sneaking up on a guard cat (notice you never see those), and hoping he’ll be calmly bathing so you can slip by unnoticed.
          And several men eating one apple?  When could that possibly happen?  And why would you point it out, when the person you would be speaking with undoubtedly has your same view?
          So off we went, first to Paris then down to the French Alps where we happened to visit the Citadel (built in 1692) in Briancon (except the c in Briancon should have a little tail). 
Speaking of tails, this entire fortification has been turned into a zoo!  It’s so huge that it creates spacious habitats, and plenty of great echoes for the call of the howler monkeys.
          But, of all things, what should I come upon?  A lounging tiger that gave me the perfect opportunity to point out that the cat is calm. 
Now all I need is a few guys to walk by, eating an apple.

No need to learn French to enjoy my books.  Order them here today and travel without leaving your armchair!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

My Cloak of Invisibility

          I have a cloak of invisibility.  Yes, I know you think only Harry Potter has one, given to him by Dumbledore with the admonition, “use it well.”  But I have one I wear nearly every time I go out.  Perhaps you have it, too.
          It’s called Being Over 40.  You actually get a glimpse of this when you’re young and have a baby in a stroller.  You go to the mall, let’s say, and no teenager can see you, whatsoever. Even if you were cute just three years ago. Their eyes may fall upon you, but those eyes just keep scanning the crowd, because you have fallen off the cliff of People Who Matter.  At least to teenagers.

          And this is but a harbinger of what is to come. After 40 you become sufficiently invisible enough to, conceivably, rob a bank. Without a disguise. If, let’s say, that bank employed only people in their twenties. You have virtually entered Geezerdom and are no longer noteworthy.  Or glanceworthy. 
          To get help in a store, you must track down an employee (often running to catch them), and beg for assistance.  They help you for only as long as they can manage it, before returning to their important customers.
          The invisibility cloak gets thicker with every passing year, until you are treated with amusement, like a friendly apparition. Your opinions are not sought,  your comments are not heard, and your presence is not acknowledged.
          And at first this feels unkind, even disrespectful.  BUT… as with many a dark cloud, it has a silver lining.  You can smooch with your husband in a public place, and people will simply look away.  You can giggle at greeting cards and no one stares.  You can stumble around with zero embarrassment, because no one is watching you.  You can order a triple scoop of ice cream.  

          You can say, “No, I don’t think so,” and not feel you must provide reasons.  You can wear the purple sweater with the green pants.  You can break into song.  And it’s all ignored by the general public.
          So not only do I have a cloak of invisibility, but it’s a silver one.  Coolio.
You can also read as many books as you like, and take all the time you wish.  Might I suggest these for Mother’s Day?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Why Do We Call Them Raspberries?

          I love these guys.  They’re plump, juicy, and sweet.  They also look great on my Vacharin, which you can make if you check out the “What’s Cooking with Joni” tab here. And here's another one I made:
          My childhood was in northern Utah, where—I am serious—due to weather conditions the raspberries are the sweetest in the world.  Southern Idaho can also make the same claim.  
          Kids in that area make treks to Bear Lake, where they pick all day, and come home with red fingers, red lips, and full bellies.
          Of course, those areas won’t have raspberry season until late summer, but where I live in California now, farmers’ markets are already bursting with fruit, including these luscious babies.  You do sacrifice some flavor, though (sigh).
          But why do we call them rasp berries?  I checked it out and there is actually a debate about it. Yes, there are not enough things to argue about in this day and age, so three theories have emerged as to how raspberries got their name.  One camp says it comes from “Raspise,” a sweet, rose-colored wine of the 15th century. 
Some say it could also come from raspoie, meaning “thicket.”
Another group says no, it got the name from its rough, “rasp”-looking surface.

But everyone agrees that it’s pronounced Razz-berry.  I take that back.  In Great Britain it’s ROZZbury. Either way, I’ll take it.  With a dollop of whipped cream, please.

What could be more glorious than curling up with a bowl of berries and cream AND a good book?  Check these out—and remember Mom with one for Mother’s Day!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Psssst! Are You There?

          I was shopping at a drugstore the other day, and noticed a dry shampoo that’s been around for years, called Psssst.  Yes, that’s four Ss in a row.  I guess they want to make sure you can imitate an aerosol can.
          And it got me to wondering, how does one answer the phone at this business?  I picture a well-meaning guy or girl in their twenties, picking up the phone and saying, “Psssst.”
          You, on the other end, aren’t quite sure if someone picked up—was that static?  Did you even hear anything at all?  You wait, maybe they do it again, and finally you hang up.
          Answering the phone at a business has never been a slam dunk.  There are lo-o-o-ong law firm names, listing everybody but the window washer, and other companies who just didn’t think this through. (And yes, I realize the parent company might have employees answer, “Woodbridge Labs,” but eventually you’re going to have to ask for someone who can say the product name, and we’re back where we started.)
          I imagine other companies whose receptionists struggle. How about the folks at the laundry product, Shout?  You call a number and the person tells you to shout, so then do you?

          Zep is a cleaning product, but if someone picks up the phone and says it, you might think they said, “Zup?” as in “what’s up” and then say, “Oh, not much, how about you?”
          Kaboom, another cleaner, might be tough to respond to.  (“Shaboom?”)  And what if the receptionist works for the hair product and says, “Go Away Gray,” and what if your last name is Gray? I guess you just hang up.
          Of course, I’m not really one to talk.  Years ago St. Bob and I developed the cleaner/degreaser, Holy Cow, and you need just the right person to answer that phone.

Thankfully none of my books require receptionists to answer the phone—you just quietly order them here, just in time for Mother's Day. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Putting Your Best Foot into Debt

          We all enjoy high quality, right?  And every one of us has felt the exasperation of buying a poorly made product that falls apart within a year of its use, right?  From garden tools to furniture to clothing, quality craftsmanship is getting harder and harder to find. And when you do find it, the price tag makes you rock back on your heels.  Let us just hope they are not John Lobb heels.
          Allow me to explain.  I once went to France with our second son, Brandon, who had served a two-year LDS church mission there.  This was fabulous in many ways, not least of which because he is ultra fluent, and the locals all assumed he was French.  But he has also had extravagant taste from the time he was a little boy and wanted to give rubies to a classmate for her birthday.  In first grade.
          So it was no surprise that he stopped dead in his tracks as we were walking along in a pricey district of Paris, the minute he spotted a John Lobb shoe store.  What, you may wonder, is a John Lobb shoe?
          Well, for the rest of us—the ones who actually live on planet Earth, not Planet Rubies for Birthdays or Planet Price is No Object, they are shoes that cost more than your first car.  And your second car.  Put together. 
          Clearly designed for men who have money to burn, they truly are amazing, high-quality, hand-crafted shoes.
          But they cost nearly $2,000.00.  And that’s before tax and shipping. Oh sure, some of them are closer to $1,000, but then a pair of crocodile Lopez Precious Leather ones will ding you $10,690.00.
          I'm happy to wait while the exclamation marks in your brain settle down. Anyway, I knew there was no way I could surprise him with a pair for Christmas, but I thought surely they had a shoe shine kit or something that he might like.  So I waited until I got home and I called one of their stores.
          The fellow on the phone happily reported that they don’t sell the wooden box you and I are picturing, only a leather travel shoe care case.  Even better, I thought—a travel one has to be less expensive than a home one.

          “How much is that?” I asked. 
          “Nine hundred dollars.”
          “Excuse me?”
          “Nine hundred dollars.  But the creams and brushes are sold separately.”
          So not only is it almost a thousand bucks, but it’s empty?  Was he kidding?  
          He was not.  “Nine hundred dollars,” he happily repeated.
          “Listen to yourself,” I said.  “You are telling me a shoe shine kit costs NINE HUNDRED DOLLARS U.S.”
          He was unfazed.  “Yes ma’am.”
          Evidently this is not shocking news to their customers (so… Prince Charles and who else?), but it left me absolutely dumbfounded.  And a Medium Metal Shoe Horn will set you back $160.00.  Seriously.  For a shoe horn.
Needless to say, I bought a little shoe-care kit from the Dollar Store, and plan to stuff it into Brandon’s Christmas stocking.  Maybe include some ruby cuff links.

Check out the prices of my books HERE.  You will be flabbergasted at what a bargain they are, especially when you consider how many dozens you can buy, all for the price of a shoe shine kit! And Mother's Day is coming up... just saying.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Now THAT'S a bumper sticker

              I’m going to confess something.  It’s not something we writers often admit, but it’s true for every one of us: Sometimes we silently edit people while they’re speaking.  We hear you, but we’re also thinking how much more concisely you could say that.
          We’re not trying to be rude; it’s just a natural reflex, like a singer thinking how you might tighten your diaphragm, or an athlete mentally imagining you swinging that club better. We still love you, we just automatically think of, well, improvements.
          And we do it with signs, as well. We do it every time we’re watching a movie on TV and it says, “This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen."  Why not just say, “This film has been modified to fit this screen”?  Redundancy abounds, and our brains wince.
          Which brings me to bumper stickers.  Usually they pose no extra verbiage problems, right?  Like billboards, most of them are six or seven words, max.  This is because people driving along can’t take their eyes off the road for much longer than that, and can only read so many words as they’re zipping by.
          But folks, in the quest to communicate from one’s car bumper, I think I have found the world’s all-time champion, right here in Rocklin, where I live:

          I was riding along with St. Bob and snapped this picture through my windshield.  We had to turn, so I couldn’t catch up to see what vital message this driver felt justified TEN PAGES of standard-sized paper, plastered to the back of his car.  Or her car.
          My first thought was, “Boy, does that person ever need a good editor.”  But then I thought, wait a minute.  Maybe this is a manuscript they hope to sell, or a scientific breakthrough we all should read. Maybe it’s a legal document in a nasty divorce.  Maybe it’s correspondence with spies and they’re whistle-blowers.  Maybe it’s an impassioned plea for help, with lots and lots of justification.  Maybe this person is selling everything they have, and unwisely started with their computer, thus can no longer use eBay.
          Whatever it is, I have to wonder who will ever have time to read it, even if they wind up behind this person at a stop light.  There is no stoplight in the land that lasts fifteen minutes. 
          But no matter what it is, I’m telling you, I could cut it down by at least nine pages.
Be sure to visit the BOOKS tab at my website (perfect for Mother's Day), and scroll through my YouTube Mom channel.  Yes, you can mentally edit my words.  I understand.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

St. Bob and Forrest Gump

          I’m not sure the exact percentage, but I’m guessing St. Bob is responsible for at least a fourth of my blog posts.  This time it’s because he is claiming to be a Ping Pong Champion, much like the Forrest Gump character we all remember in that ping pong scene. 
Except that Bob has no special effects crew to follow him around and arrange for him to dazzle the world.  He must rely upon his own ping pong skills.
Which brings us to out-and-out lying.  Now, yes, Bob is naturally athletic and gave the kids a run for their money years ago when we had a ping pong table.  But he has never played seriously, has never been in a tournament, never even plays videogames, and hasn’t touched a ping pong paddle in ten years.
So the guys at church decided to have a ping pong event, and sent around a sign-up sheet.  They asked each man to indicate his ability by ranking himself on a scale of 1 to 10-- 1 for beginner, and 10 for expert.
Bob wrote 14.  FOURTEEN.  His plan is, when they call him in absolute astonishment, to say, “Oh, didn’t I put a hyphen in there?” 
I think they should erase that little stem on the letter P, on their sign- up sheet, so it says Ding Dong Tournament.  Then 14 would be exactly right.

Yes, several of my characters are based on this man, so you simply must buy my books.  He’s also my YouTube Mom cameraman—check it all out here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

DNA, Shmee N A

          Probably the hottest trend right now is tracing your DNA.  I have friends who are over the moon excited to find out that they’re part Cherokee or Russian or Chinese, when they thought were 100 % Irish through and through.  And it is exciting.
          So I thought I’d see if you can do this with dogs.  Because that’s how my mind works.  Of course, there’s no use doing it with AKA-registered show dogs; their backgrounds are already documented on paper. It would only be fascinating to do it with mutts you’ve rescued.
          And, as a long-time mutt rescuer, I have often wondered what accounts for not only the odd appearances of my pets, but their odd behavior. 
Because this is just a blog and not a book, we shall deal exclusively with my current dog, Mickey. I believe that if I traced her bloodline, it would lead directly to a muskrat, as she will burrow under anything she can.  Somehow, in a miracle of science, a muskrat and a dog must have bred centuries ago.
And as long as we're mixing species, her eating habits would indicate that she may also be a small percentage frog, chicken, owl, or snake, because she gulps her food down whole, as do those same creatures.
It’s also possible that her line includes a fictional, animated mouse, since there is a Mickey Mouse silhouette on her back-- nature’s way of shouting truth, right?
As for actual dogs in her line, let’s start with her breed.  The shelter said she was a Taco Terrier, a designer dog created by breeding a Chihuahua with a Miniature Fox Terrier.
          Now, Taco Terrier is a cute, alliterative name, but it is also the PERFECT RECIPE for a dog that cannot be housebroken.  If you look up a list of dogs tough to potty train, Chihuahuas will lead the list, followed by other toy breeds.  “Miniature” is a clue, and I believe actually refers to their bladders.
          In addition, terriers are known for being stubborn, independent, feisty, and not wanting to be team players with humans.  So, if you had the diabolical plan to create the perfect storm of an untrainable dog who piddles all over the house, you would breed a Chihuahua with a miniature terrier, hence Taco Terriers.
          Of course, I didn’t know this when we simply chose her based upon adorableness.  
          I didn’t even look at the paperwork from the person who surrendered her until years later, when I noticed that in the box labeled “Housebroken?” they had written, “Somewhat.”
          Folks, you cannot be somewhat housebroken. It’s like being somewhat pregnant.  Either you are or you are not.
          And so the housebreaking ordeal of the century began, and, despite her DNA, at long last we have a dog we can trust.  Somewhat.
          If you can take your eyes off your dog, settle down with a good book, or some short YouTube mom videos.  You can find them all here.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I Say Tomato You Say Paradicsom

          I am jealous of people who speak multiple languages.  This means you, if my blog map is accurate, and I have readers in dozens of other countries.
          Sometimes I’ll notice someone’s background info on Facebook, and it will say they also speak Spanish, French, Dutch, and Portuguese.  Or they speak half a dozen African languages.  Or they speak Mandarin, Taiwanese, Arabic, and Farsi. Whaaat? 
          I am also mad at the U.S. school system, which thinks you can wait until junior high or high school to start teaching foreign languages.  We should start in pre-school.  That’s how others become truly fluent—they grow up learning languages when your brain is still young enough to grab hold of it.
          So here I sit, with Cave Man Spanish in my repertoire, and also Pig Latin, at which I am highly adept, again because I learned it before age ten. However, it does not come in as handy as I had hoped.  And, I might add, would not impress anyone on Facebook.
One time I was planning a trip to Germany and a friend of mine who had served a two-year LDS mission there helped me master one line.  I figured I’d be shopping, and I would look very cool and cosmopolitan if I could say, “How much is this?” in German.  All the way over on the plane I practiced my line until it rolled quickly and confidently from my lips.
I went into a store.  I saw a darling sweater.  I grabbed the sleeve, and said to a clerk, “Wieviel ist das?”
And she answered me.  In German.  I stood there like the dope I was, completely unable to fathom what she said.  Then I had to admit that I didn’t really speak German, I was just trying out my one lame line.  Aauugh.
It was also frustrating to be on Finnair Airlines one time, trying to convince the flight attendant, who kept speaking to me in Finnish, that I was actually an American and couldn’t understand her.  She kept rolling her eyes and finally walked away, as if I’d been joking.  Hey, I may look Scandinavian, but the most I can do is order a… okay, actually I can’t think of anything I can order there in any of those languages.  I can say “mustard” in Ukrainian, but how far will that get me?
Our daughter, Nicole, went on a mission to Norway, and speaks incredible Norwegian (according to the Norwegians we have run into).  When she first left I thought I’d surprise her by learning it online while she was gone.  I didn’t expect to be fluent, but I thought I could master a line or two.  Wrongo.  I took one look at those instructional videos filled with unfamiliar sounds and complicated wording, and turned the computer off.
Sometimes I’m tempted to laugh at package instructions from other countries, which are clearly written by someone who does not speak English very well.  Then I remember I would have no chance whatsoever translating these same instructions from English into their language. 
And I get irritated when someone says “tortilla soup” but pronounces the Ls, which should be Ys, as in tor-tee-ya soup.  Not tore-till-uh soup. But then I remember that I grew up talking about un-thawing something from the freezer, when it was simply thaw. Not un-thaw.
So there we are.  I’m jealous, mad, frustrated, irritated, and embarrassed, all at once.  Hey—I may not know multiple languages, but I can juggle multiple emotions.  That’s gotta count for something.

Check out my YouTube Mom videos.  They’re in English, but feel free to translate these handy life hacks for all your friends.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Lights! Camera! Action!

          Last Friday a real-life chase scene tore through the streets of Hollywood, and most folks just took selfies.
          Here’s what happened.  Two guys in a blue Mustang led police on a wild chase, doing donuts and pumping their fists in the air.  It started with the report of a burglary, but ended with sudden fans hugging and high-fiving the suspects as they arrived in their own neighborhood. TV news helicopters followed the action until sheriffs finally arrived and arrested the two men.
          This is the problem with living in L.A.  Years ago when I lived there, I recall driving down a street not far from Universal Studios, and seeing two policemen with guns drawn, crouching behind the open door of a cop car, with other police cars nearby.  A crowd was standing around, apparently doing nothing exactly as crowds look on a movie set, so I – and everybody in my car—assumed it was a movie shoot.  Or a television episode. 
          We all muttered about the pain-in-the-neck these events are, trying to maneuver through streets crowded with props, catering trucks, lighting cables and the like.  And we turned around to go another way.
          About an hour later I learned this was an actual standoff between police and someone holding a hostage in a house.  Good gravy!  I was literally living in a movie set of sorts, and like these folks in Hollywood who cheer as suspects provide drama and entertainment, we forget that real crime also happens, not just scripted crime.
          Just one more reason to leave La La Land, along with my reason several years ago. I knew it was time to go when I was driving on the Ventura Freeway and heard my two young boys in the back seat, arguing about whether a passing limo was a stretch or not.
          Sometimes it’s just better to shout, “Cut” and change to a new scene.

But I did host a daily TV talk show there for four years, and much of that plays out in my comedy novel, Sisters in the Mix, which you can find here.