Tuesday, September 19, 2017

When King Kong Meets Hong Kong

          Imagine for a moment that you are a filmmaker and you’ve been hired to go to Hong Kong to make a film promoting Hong Kong tourism.
          Now, I’ve been to Hong Kong, so let me tell you it’s a photographer’s dream.  Beautiful junks on the bay:
Tiantan Buddha:
The Peak:
Ladies Market:
The Clock Tower:
          You film it all.  Even the delicious food:
          And then WHAMMO—a rare Class 10 typhoon hits. The entire city closes down like a ghost town for 24 hours.
          You have the good sense not to tell your mother, and you hope she doesn’t hear about it on the news (Thank you, Cassidy).  But the irony is not lost on you—who goes to a location to show how great it is, and then it nearly gets blown off the map?  Yes, that is the Hilton Irony that our youngest son will experience, probably forever. And this is why every one in our family loves comedy.  Case in point, here's our eldest son wearing a shirt that says, "Irony. The opposite of wrinkly."
Check out my humorous books here, especially Sisters in the Mix.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Lucky Bob

          Some people are just lucky.  They always find the best parking spot, they call people who always answer the phone, they win at every game.
          St. Bob is one of these people. He actually has no idea what it’s like to be a regular Joe, to find himself in the slowest supermarket line, or in the slowest lane of traffic.  It’s as if guardian angels are dashing ahead of him, clearing the way for St. Bob.
          And, of course, let’s not forget his incredible luck in marrying me. HOWEVER, his luck has taken a weird twist, recently.  And it has shown up in the form of fortune cookies.
          Here are two fortunes I recently received, which unlike the common “advice cookies” we see today, actually promised me fortunes, even if oddly worded:
          Then, check out the “fortunes” Bob got at two recent business luncheons, both at the same Chinese restaurant:
          Yes, I think Bob’s Fortune Fairy has taken a cruise to the Bahamas, and her dopey cousin, Frieda, is filling in for her.  So far the parking spots and traffic lanes are unaffected, but we’re hoping the cruise doesn’t turn into a trip around the world.

          You can control your own good fortune by purchasing any one of my books.  Lucky you, they’re right here!

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Crazy Handyman

          St. Bob and I have spent the majority of our marriage remodeling.  This is because he is a closet architect and loves to re-imagine spaces and I am a closet supportive wife (very much in the closet at times) and agree to his schemes. I mean his inventive plans.
          When I hear couples anguishing about the stress of a remodel, I think, What must that be like, NOT to be remodeling?
          For years we’ve had workmen traipsing in and out, dust in the air, sawing noises, hammering, and yes—a ladder falling onto our baby grand piano and causing it to be refinished.  It’s not something everyone brags about, but I have probably seen more butt cracks than any human alive.
          So I know a thing or two about hiring contractors and handymen. Now I like crazy people as much as the next person (more, if you ask St. Bob), but here's my advice: You are in for a load of misery if you hire someone who needs to be on medication and who is not.
Next to choosing the correct spouse, this one decision can account for 90 per cent of your future happiness.  Okay, that’s made up, but it’s pretty important.  Take, for example, a fellow we’ll call Barney.  We hired Barney because he was an inactive member of our church and we thought we could help him find his way back.  But Barney can drive you crazy in five seconds or less—faster than many Porsches can hit 60 miles an hour.
If he is in a jovial mood, you will mistakenly think everything is going to go well.  But there is a huge difference between cheerful and hysterically ecstatic.  If you get trapped in a small bathroom while he is loudly extolling the virtues of, say, shower grout, you can go deaf.  Your husband can emerge from this encounter staggering down the hall, wiping spit from his face, and grabbing for something to steady himself.
Laughter beyond any level you have ever heard can echo through your attic and smack into your kitchen, making you bang your head on the  underside of the sink.  When you go to the attic to investigate what on earth could be so funny, you find that it is nothing.
And in this fit of euphoria, the wacko handyman will go easy on himself, and forgive a little quarter-of-an-inch here and there, and the next thing you know, you will be tripping over your own floor.  Your faucet handles will turn backwards and your stove won’t fit its intended space, all because someone was thinking happy little thoughts instead of measuring accurate little measurements.
If said Barney is in a bad mood, he will come over, drop his tools, ladder, and buckets wherever he happens to be (in the doorway, say), and begin yelling about government corruption, cowardly police who won’t arrest his neighbors, and rich celebrities who give nothing back.  Your own neighbors will crane their necks to see who’s about to kill somebody, and you’ll have to yank Barney into the house and slam the door.
His work will be disastrous.  He will emit loud, gaseous noises, and will swear like a crazy handyman.  You will wait as long as possible, and finally you will drive like a demon to Nordstrom’s and buy three new outfits, and stop for a chocolate malt on your way home.  And thus your outfits won’t fit.
And you’ll have to hang them in a crooked closet.  So now you have plenty of advice for a happy marriage and a home that is not shaped like a rhombus.

Much of this blog came from my book, Funeral Potatoes—The Novel which you can buy here.  But there are many scenes in that book which came from my real life, and this is one of them.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

10 Times When it's Okay to Let Kids Quit

          It’s the end of summer vacation.  Parents the world over have been hauling their kids to lessons, sports, and music as we try to fill their days with enriching opportunities, right?  And it won’t stop just because school is starting.  Many families continue all these commitments year round.
          But what if the kids hate it, or it just isn’t a good fit? We don’t want them to have a quitter mentality, so when is it okay to let kids resign? After raising four kids, here’s my list of when it’s perfectly okay to say stop:
1.       When the piano teacher says, “Honey, wouldn’t you like to try tap?” (Yes, this happened to me, and yes, I have used it in one of my novels.)
2.      When he starts following the chalk line during a soccer game. (Yes, one of our sons did this.)
3.       When she picks a bouquet in the outfield. (Another sport, another child.)
4.      When it’s clear he only wanted to take karate for the “costume.” (Take your bows, two eldest boys.)
5.       When cats gather at your doorway during violin practice.
6.      When the coach is the most immature person at the pool and throws a chair in anger. (High school water polo.)
7.       When her pet breeding hobby yields 28 extra guinea pigs. (Yep, happened right upstairs.)

8.      When his science experiments involves gun powder or gasoline. (Two kitchens still bear the scars.)
9.      When the coach assigns him to do everyone else’s laundry.
10.     When you’re still trying to get him to break the 20-minute mile.

Let’s face it, not every activity fits every kid.  But books do, and I’ve written something for everyone.  Check ‘em out here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Feeling Stupid

          Have you ever felt, really and truly, well, stupid?  Hopefully such moments are infrequent, and are interspersed with wonderful moments of feeling wise and brilliant, or at least able to fake it.  But I think we all have those creepy times when we say or do the absolute wrong thing, and there’s no back-pedaling.
          I have many of these, but my stupidity stops short of sharing all of them in one blog post.  Since most kids are going back to school now, I’ll tell you just one of mine.  It happened during my first semester in college.  I had signed up for a psychology class (okay, I figured I would ace it since my dad was a psychologist).  One of the requirements for freshman peons is that they volunteer to help senior psych majors with lab experiments.  I signed right up for a two-hour meeting with an uptight coed I shall call Merda.  I have chosen this pseudonym because by the end of the experiment, I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have minded murdering me.
          She sat me down and began explaining the binary system to me.  This was before everybody had their own home computer, and decades before we all had them built into our cell phones.  Also, mind you, math is not my strong suit.  Math with alphabet letters standing in for the numbers is such a pet peeve of mine that my brain digs in its heels and resists what is clearly Language Larceny.  But Merda was on a roll.  She explained the entire binary language, then asked me a series of questions about it, to see if I had understood her.  I failed miserably and with every wrong answer she became more and more irritated.  It was as if I were proving her teaching methods wrong.
          Just as an aside, I would like to add that this aversion to such matters is not genetic, apparently.  I gave our eldest son a binary clock when he was in high school and he was THRILLED.  Nobody else could read it, so he was now DOUBLY THRILLED.  Or BINARILY THRILLED.
          But back to Merda. By the end of our session, she had progressed from irritated to incensed to fully angry. She accused me of not trying (I get that a lot, but it’s usually in sports), and of not taking school seriously. Little did she know that I was very likely the most serious taker of school she would ever meet.  Finally she said something about my not being adept, period, and for some INSANE reason I thought about horses.  I thought about how much I loved to ride, how I first learned on skittish Shetland Ponies, and how I knew how to saddle one up and take off, something most kids at my college in Los Angeles would find utterly miraculous.
          As she dismissed me, I decided to defend myself by pointing out that not every praiseworthy skill relates to the binary system, and I said, “Do you know how to housebreak a horse?”
          She stared at me, incredulous.  “No,” she said.
          “Well I do,” I snapped, and with that final “touche” moment, swept out of the room in moral victory.  I got about twenty feet away before I realized I had said, “housebreak,” not just “break.” So now, not only did Merda think I was the dolt of the century, but a squalor-dwelling nitwit who keeps horses INSIDE her house.  Potty trained or not, this is truly not a good idea.  
          Yes, folks, you cannot make this stuff up.  And now, if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to look at pictures of horses on Facebook.  What the hay.
I’ve blogged about other embarrassing moments; scroll through and you’ll see many.  Be sure to subscribe, so you can feel brilliant every single week.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Is There Really a Lid for Every Pot?

          There is a strange phenomenon going on in every household across America, maybe throughout the world. And none of us question it, we just live with it.
          It’s the Mystery of the Tupperware Lids. That may not sound like the next riveting Stephen King novel, but believe me: It’s taking over the universe.
          We all have a stash of these plastic containers.  And maybe they’re made by Rubbermaid or Ziploc or some other company, but the problem remains: Our lids and bottoms do not match up.  At least not perfectly.  We either have too many lids or too many bottoms, many of which have no mate.
          How is this possible?  We buy them in matching sets, the math is perfect.  And then, within days, our world is in disarray.
          Imagine if this happened with your shoes.  Suddenly no two shoes go together—you have a Nike shoe, a dress shoe, and a slipper.  But no mates.  You’d call the police, right? And report shoe theft or something.
          What if one of your bedsheets was suddenly gone?  Or half your shirts?  Sure, we all joke about the lost sock in the laundry, but that’s one sock. Not one of every pair.
          Does plastic decompose faster than we’ve all been taught, and does it literally evaporate into the air? Is there a vast network of tiny elves who worship plastic, and who sneak into our homes (through the vents?) and then make off with various lids? Did someone melt them in the dishwasher, or try to bake them in the oven?

          It makes you want to install a tiny chain from the lid to its bottom, the way banks protect their ball point pens.  Or just use ceramic bowls and plastic wrap forever more.  Or disposable Chinese-style take-out boxes.  Meanwhile, I don’t recommend calling the police.  They’d have time for nothing else.

         Stay home and guard your plastic containers—curl up with a good book and keep one eye out for thieves.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

We Should Have a Nancy Johnson Day

          Last week I blogged about the ice cream man, and since we’re still in a heat wave today I’m blogging about the ultimate Ice Cream Woman, Nancy Johnson.
          No one knows exactly what she looked like, so I’m going with Marlene Dietrich.  Hey, who’s to say she didn’t look like this?
          What we do know is that she was a Philadelphia housewife, born in 1795, and that she invented the hand-cranked ice cream churn and that, in turn, made history.

          Before this ingenious invention, ice cream was made laboriously at home, with lumpy results. And usually only by servants of the ruling class.  But now, thanks to Nancy, quality ice cream could be produced and sold to the masses.  Even today, electric mixers resemble the one she invented, using cylinders, a paddle, a lid, and a crank.
           Flash frozen—I mean flash forward—to today, and we find out that Americans each eat more than 22 pounds of it a year. The most popular flavors, in order, are: Chocolate, Vanilla, Cookie Dough/Cookies & Cream, Butter Pecan/Swiss Almond, Mint Chocolate Chip, and Strawberry.
          Just in the U.S., sales average about $14 billion a year, and $77 billion worldwide. 
          Unfortunately Nancy couldn’t afford to manufacture her own invention, and sold it for just $200.
          I think the very least we can do is give Nancy her own day.
And nothing beats reading a good book while enjoying an ice cream cone.  You can order my books here.  The cone you’ll have to scoop yourself. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Ice Cream Man Cometh

          When I say “Ice Cream Man” you picture the guys driving the musical trucks around, right?  And little kids running out of their homes to catch him and buy some ice cream? 

          Well, I picture that as well, but I also think how cool it would be to have a giant mannequin made entirely of ice cream.  Surely there’s a festival somewhere, where they do this.
          In Los Angeles this summer, there was a pop-up Ice Cream Museum (tickets sold faster than hotcakes topped with ice cream), and one of my friends described her visit as a religious experience.
          But back to the ice cream man.  It occurs to me that these brave, hardy souls who traverse suburbia selling popsicles and ice cream sandwiches are to be admired for something else as well: They can tolerate the same tune, played loudly on tinny speakers, for hours upon hours as they make their rounds. In my neighborhood it’s “The Entertainer,” which was actually written by Scott Joplin in 1902.  If people in Rocklin ever attend a Ragtime Revue, every one of their mouths will water when that tune begins.  We’ve been trained like Pavlov’s dog.
          And every time the ice cream man goes by, I think of him with admiration for being able to tolerate repetition, the likes of which would drive anyone else into a screaming fit.  So today I pay tribute not only to the guy who brings cool, refreshing treats to the sweaty masses in this heat wave we’re having, but to the guy who can maintain his sanity when all others would be losing theirs.
Stay inside where it’s cool and enjoy a frosty treat while you read one of my books.  I don’t even mind if you drip ice cream on the pages.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I Married a Leprechaun!

          Well, the results are in for St. Bob’s DNA and he’s about 1/3 Irish!  Granted, they group Irish, Scottish, and Welsh together, so it’s a mix, but still.  This means I should get free Lucky Charms cereal for life I do believe.
          I am also now able to legitimately celebrate St. Paddy’s Day, make green eggs and ham, find four-leaf clovers, and expect to find a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow.  By marriage, of course.
          A few years ago Bob took our daughter, Nicole, to England and Scotland on a connect-the-dots trip of castles where his various ancestors have been born, ending with Hylton Castle, and they posed for this photo, unaware just how Scottish and Irish they really are.  Well, except for Bob’s obvious luck of the Irish in marrying me.
          He’s also almost 1/3 Scandinavian, which probably accounts for his height and coloring.  Oh, and his Viking daring-do. 

And the rest is “Western European.”  So, kind of a vanilla result with no shocking surprises or intriguing mysteries. But it was interesting that Ancestry.com also included a map of the U.S. where hundreds of near genetic matches are, and they’re all grouped in Mississippi and Louisiana. All this without knowing that Bob grew up in Lake Charles, Louisiana.  With crawfish climbing up through his front lawn. 
But that’s another story.
Speaking of stories, did you know I have 25 published books you could be enjoying?  All kinds—literary fiction, action adventure, romance, comedy, chick-lit.  Check ‘em out here!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

10 Things I Will Not Do on My Next Summer Vacation

  1. I will not let the family comedian ride by the window where he can motion for the drivers of semi trucks to honk, thus scaring the rest of us out of our wits.
  2. I will not park a motorhome next to a gathering of people who are still mourning the death of Jerry Garcia.
  3. I will not allow a Boy Scout to navigate, just so he can get a badge.
  4. I will not allow a Boy Scout to navigate, just because he GOT a badge.
  5. I will not allow any chorus of children to sing songs about finding peanuts.
  6. I will not stay on a working ranch that doesn’t realize the word ‘working’ is just a figure of speech.
  7. I will not engage in any activity that involves oars.
  8. I will not go to a ‘cook your own food’ restaurant (isn’t this what we went on vacation to escape?)
  9. I will not wear knit pants on any ride that bears the sign: You will get soaked.
  10. I will not participate in hula stage shows if video cameras are present.
  11. I will not sign up for the city tour on a bus that also transports chickens.
  12. I will not buy musical replicas of national monuments.
  13. I will not pack any shoe with more than a one-inch heel.
  14. I will not allow shells containing live creatures, to be packed up and brought home.
One thing you can safely do is take along a beach read-- may I suggest one of my books available here?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Berry Surprising

          It’s summertime.  Okay, it’s summertime in the northern hemisphere.  And that, for many people, means strawberries.
 I’ve told you before that I live in the most productive area of the world when it comes to produce.  Farmers’ markets abound, and you can find juicy, gigantic strawberries red to the center.  In fact, California produces 75% of all of these luscious gems.
But did you ever wonder how they got that name?  It’s been around for a thousand years, before they were even cultivated, when they still grew wild. So the idea that the name came from the careful placement of straw under the berries to protect them, is out.
That leaves just two other theories.  One is that the little flecks on them (called achenes) are the color of straw.  
Pretty weak, if you ask me.  You could just as easily call them wheat berries.  Except wheat berries already exist.
          So the last theory is that it comes from “stray” or “strew,” describing the tendrils and runners that seem to spread across the ground. Maybe that’s the best fit, but we’ll never know conclusively.
          However, we do know several cool things about strawberries:
1.      They’re the first berry to ripen in the Spring (and maybe we should say the early bird gets the strawberry.  Or the worm gets the strawberry.  I don’t know.  Whoever’s up first.)
2.    They have about 200 of those little seeds on each one.  And they’re the only fruit with their seeds on the outside. (And each “seed” is considered its own separate fruit!)
3.     They aren’t really a berry at all, but members of the rose family, an “accessory fruit,” which stand to reason in my book, because they do kind of look like purses.
4.    One cup of strawberries contains just 55 calories—and more vitamin C than oranges—which is not cancelled out just because you served them with shortcake and whipped cream. Or dipped in chocolate.
5.     Like most fruit, strawberries taste sweetest when served at room temperature rather than chilled.
6.    They can actually whiten teeth, because the acid in them removes stains.

          So there you have it—enough information to entertain your friends as you serve up a delicious STRAWBERRY CREAM PUFF or STRAWBERRY DUMPLING—two of my prize-winning recipes you can find here.  Yummers.  You’re welcome.