Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Death Ray, Part 2

          Well, it finally happened.  Our gigantic 90s Big Screen TV died.  We knew we were living on borrowed time, but kept hoping it would last forever.  Not so.  The 60-inch behemoth finally bit the dust.
          St. Bob dutifully forced himself to go Flat Screen Shopping, which is akin to my being forced to try out a fantastic new restaurant.  Since I have little interest in tweeters, woofers, and other things electronic, I let him make the day of it and soon he was back with a much smaller television and a much crisper image. 
          Not among those mourning the loss of our gigantic old TV was our son, Richie.  You may recall that he’s been waiting for this moment like a cat with a mini-cam on a bird’s nest, eagerly anticipating the first crack in an egg.
          Richie, you remember, wants to make a death ray out of it.  You can read about this insane idea here, which he got from an equally worrisome physicist on the internet.  So it doesn’t take long for Richie to come over and break open the dead TV to remove the filet—a sheet of plastic that magnifies the sun’s rays enough to roast a weenie or anything else in its path.  Here are some lenses he will no doubt repurpose into something explosive
          And here he is with the prized sheet of plastic which will stir envy among all his peers

          And here he is tilting that very plastic to show how one can fry a lawn if fried lawn is your thing.

          I, of course, turned the former TV alcove into a cozy home office with a little wallpaper, some lamps, and a desk stolen out from under St. Bob in another room.
         But best of all, is what I plan to do with the shell of the TV.  Tell me this would not make a PERFECT puppet theatre for my future grandkids!  Some red velvet curtains, some puppets, and away we go!  I can’t wait. 
            Bob thinks this is entirely ridiculous since we have no grandkids and no rumors of grandkids (more ridiculous than a death ray?  I think not) so I’m storing it in the garage.  Next to the baby crib I got last month.  Hope blooms eternal.

You cannot go through life without hope.  Although you can survive quite nicely without a death ray.  And my hope is that you’ll buy my novels, Jungle, Pinholes Into Heaven, and Sisters in the Mix. They are waaay cheaper than a flat screen TV, and you can find them on Kindle and in hard copies at Createspace.  Just saying.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Almost a Millionaire- the Sequel

          Last time I told you my “I coulda been a contender” story about being disqualified from the Pillsbury Bake-Off, after having become a finalist.  Today I’m going to top it.  I almost got to be on Oprah to plug one of my books.
          Let me pause here, and ask if you know what happened to authors who appeared on Oprah and mentioned their books.  THEY BECAME MILLIONAIRES, right?  Just so you know what’s at stake, so you can have some Kleenex handy.

          And Oprah wanted me.  I had written a wonderful book of activities for families, based on my daily “Project Time” with my own four kids.  Most of the ideas took just five minutes, and used materials you have around the house.   It was called “Family Fun Book – More than 400 Amazing, Amusing, and All-Around Awesome Activities for the Entire Family,” published by Running Press.
          My book had come to the attention of one of their producers, and she called to see if I’d like to appear on Oprah.  Are you kidding me?  That would be a definite YES.  She was particularly interested in a project I had suggested, namely making a home movie that teaches your kids the alphabet. 
Here’s the idea, straight from my book:
          Kids love to watch videos of themselves, so why not put one together that teaches them the alphabet? We did this for Nicole, and it was fantastic. She’s the star of the show, pointing out things that start with various letters.  Sometimes we even made the letter from clay, or wrote them in sand.  At the end, she posed in every letter’s shape for a quick review.
          I was only too happy to send her a copy of the video, and they chose a clip to use on air.  I was living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa at the time, so the Oprah folks gave me a choice: I could fly in the night before and stay in a hotel, or I could fly in the next morning and get there just in time for the taping.

          Our second son, Brandon, was scheduled to receive his Boy Scout Arrow of Light Award the night before, so I, THE GOOD MOTHER, chose to fly in the following morning.  No way was I going to miss this important moment in my son’s life, right?
          There’s just one problem.  Cedar Rapids is not a major, international airport, and when I stepped up to the ticket counter to get my boarding pass, they told me they had just cancelled the one flight to Chicago that was scheduled for that morning.  I couldn’t get booked on a train, much less a flight.  The chipper clerk behind the desk offered to refund my ticket money, smiling as if this also covered the HUGE, COLOSSAL, MONUMENTAL  income they had just cost me, to say nothing of CHANGING MY ENTIRE LIFE. 
          I often think about that Arrow of Light ceremony.  But that would be totally tacky for me to lay a guilt trip on Brandon and remind him of the giant sacrifice I made for him.  So I only do it occasionally.
Don’t your own coulda-woulda moments look better now?  Just think of the joy you can have if you subscribe to Joniopolis!  Top left hand corner of this home page, folks!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Almost a Millionaire

            Yep, it’s that time of year, again.  Time for the Pillsubury Bake-Off.  And several folks who know I love to enter cook-offs, have asked if I’m going.  Nope.  Two years ago I was selected as one of the 100 finalists, and then just a few weeks before leaving for the big event, I was disqualified.  
            And here’s why: They want to keep it unprofessional.  Excuse me?  Who is less professional about their cooking than I am?  St. Bob even jokes that I should have a cooking show called, “Oh, It’ll Be Fine.”  I take imperfection quite seriously.  I have never had professional training, never worked as a chef, never been on the staff of a newspaper or magazine that prints recipes.  This is what they define as professional. 
            Apparently droves of home cooks who blog about cooking, who teach it in their homes, and who cater weddings on the side, are less professional than I am.  Which is hilarious.  I have won bunches of recipe contests and cook-offs, but so have most of their entrants.
             I had no idea I was joining the ranks of “food professionals” when a publisher approached me, years ago, and asked me to write a cookbook.  First rule of freelance writing: Never turn down work that falls into your lap, right?  But this one move made me ineligible to take my killer chocolate cookie recipe to the Bake-Off. 
            We’ll never know if I might have won, but I’ll tell you this.  It’s easy, it’s  gooey, it’s rich, and the world’s cardiologists are being deprived untold numbers of cholesterol patients who might otherwise have eaten my cookie. Thanks a lot, Pillsbury.
Fear not, you can go where Pillsbury feared to tread-- namely to my rescue, and buy my books!  The three most recent novels are Jungle, Pinholes into Heaven, and Sisters in the Mix.  All are available in hard copies at Createspace and on Kindle at Amazon.  Adventure, literary, and humor-- something for everyone!           

Friday, April 18, 2014


            There’s something about dying Easter eggs that brings out the comedian in my family.  Make that five comedians.  Between the four kids and St. Bob (really the fifth child), it’s a competition to see who can create the most hilarious egg.
            I, on the other hand (the truly saintly mom, of course), want this to be a reminder of Spring, and of New Life, and Christ’s Resurrection after all, and thus I color my eggs in properly dainty pastels, neatly striped and artistically swirled.  Fat rubber bands block out areas of the egg not to be dyed, and when removed, they reveal an easy two-tone  stripe.  Rubber cement does the same thing, only in curves and brush strokes, reminding me that I am just like Martha Stewart, minus the prison time.
            I’m also a huge fan of dying eggs with silk neckties, and if you want to see how to transfer those patterns to your own eggs, click here.
            My children, on the other hand, think it’s funny to sketch a knife on the egg, then paint blood oozing from a crack they drew with a Sharpie.  Brandon takes delight in painting his eggs camouflage, thus rendering them completely invisible for the outdoor egg hunt.  One year they competed for most disgusting color.  It was a brownish algae hue, as I recall.
            Cassidy forgets the iron etiquette rule of dying, namely Thou Shalt Not Dip the Purple Spoon Into the Yellow Cup, and within minutes, all the cups contain a gray liquid resembling Thai meatball soup.
            Nicole, at thirteen, could apply makeup to her eggs better than a makeup artist, creating faces complete with blush and eyeliner.  Nobody but me cringed when those same eggs were later cracked and peeled, an eery experience once I’d gotten used to the new “people.”
Richie invented a new technique a few years ago, and none of us have been able to copy him so far.  He somehow spins the egg on one end so fast, that he can hold out a soft-tip marker, and make dozens of skinny lines in one continuous spiral.  Of course, he uses ink that smears when it gets wet.  And, naturally, grass is wet.  So any kid who picks up this egg is in for a permanent surprise.
            Bob, who likes to keep his shirt clean, is the most reluctant participant in this dye-splashing, egg-cracking eggstravaganza.  He always chooses one egg, and one egg only, then takes his time to drizzle colors exactly where he wants them.  His egg looks like a Monet pond and lily pads, reflecting irises conveniently scattered near the banks.  

The rest of our eggs suddenly look like the result of a game for psychotics who were blindfolded and told to paint their problems. 
Finally the deed is done, and it’s time to fight over who gets to empty out which dye cup into the sink, to ooh and aah over the gross combinations swirling down the drain.  Newspaper that looks like modern art is gathered up and tossed, and new stains are discovered on everyone’s clothes.  Eggs are stored in the refrigerator for the Easter Bunny to discover during the night.  Somehow, we all go to bed smiling, our fingertips odd shades of blue and orange, our kitchen smelling of sulfur and vinegar, and cellophane grass stuffed into all our baskets, awaiting Peeps and chocolate Bunnies.  And we know it’s Easter once again.
It may be too late to order my books for your Easter baskets, but Mother’s Day is coming up, so hie thee to this link, and your shopping will be done!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Song that Never Ends

            St. Bob says he’s made a deal with the devil that will let him live to be 120 years old.  It’s quite simple, really.  He has agreed to die when the road work in West Sacramento is finished.  “He thinks he’s made a good deal,” Bob explains as we pass yet another stretch of unfinished freeway.  “But he’s never done a highway deal in California before.”
            And we’re not alone.  All across the fruited plains there are cities whose roads are constantly under construction.  In Pennsylvania and Michigan they claim to have two seasons: winter and road construction.  A guy in Louisiana put a mattress in a pothole, then climbed in and took a nap, just to make a point.  The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway has been under construction for so long (since the 1960s) that folks call it The Brooklyn-Queens Distressway.  It’s hard to single out a few states because all of them have sections of blocked off lanes and bulldozers that, well, never seem to finish the job.
            Which leads me to my favorite conspiracy theory.  I think road repair is a scam, designed to self-perpetuate.  Yes, new asphalt is laid down, but not enough to accommodate the new suburb or commercial complex coming in six months.  So the median and sidewalks they’re building now will have to be torn out again shortly, to widen the road.  Don’t even get me started on the saplings they’re going to rip out.
            Freeways amaze me most of all, since they have finite edges. They’re just so wide.  So why not fill them with all the necessary lanes when you first make them, instead of carving one lane at a time into the gravelly shoulder?  You know you’re going to need more lanes eventually—why not just make them all and be done with it while you’re already here?
            And, as is often the answer to such questions, it comes down to money.  If you make all the lanes possible when you first lay down a road, how can you come back later, at much greater expense, and re-do it?  Ka-ching, my friends.
            I went to several internet sites, researching the insane amount of redundant road work being done and guess what?  Several government big wigs actually defend it, saying it boosts the economy and creates jobs.  Really?  Why not just have folks dig holes and fill them up again if all you want is busywork?  Meanwhile, what’s happening to the economy and the jobs of commuters who have to spend two extra hours every day navigating the rubble?  And these are our tax dollars, not just some magical fund for road work that someone dug up in a treasure box.  Or maybe that’s what they’re looking for.
At least, if you have to be in a car, know how to get in and out of one while maintaining your dignity in a skirt.  Granted, this one’s for the ladies, but check out my Youtube channel here, where I’m the YouTube Mom!