Tuesday, July 29, 2014

If Your City were a Perfume

          If your city were a perfume, what would it smell like?  I don’t mean what does your city actually smell like, I mean what comes to mind when you think of your city’s name?
          Let’s start with Paris, London, or San Francisco-- all exciting, sensational, cities.  You can inhale deeply on those, right?  Honolulu or Miami might be exotic, gingery fragrances, or have the scent of plumeria, which always makes me swoon.  You think of coconuts, orchids and vanilla in tropical locations as well.
          Dolce&Gabbanna has one called Sicily, and there are other Italian-themed perfumes hinting at Tuscany and Venice.  You think of Italy as a place of bold adventure and passionate romance.
Manhattan would have some sophisticated notes, definitely not a heady floral.  Las Vegas and Hollywood have fragrances named for them as well, and ads that promise the scent of glamor, risk and seduction.  Then there are places that bring to mind woodsy forests of thick pines, like Aspen or Tahoe.  
And fresh ocean breezes seem the promise of names like Newport or of my birthplace, San Diego.
But let’s face it.  Some cities will never make it to the perfume label stage.  My current residence is Rocklin, and I guess it could be a men’s fragrance for that rugged, outdoorsy guy.  But be honest-- it’s hard to imagine a perfume named Scrabster, Lynchberg, Billings, or Dead Horse.
Let’s just look at a few locations here in the United States. They may be lovely places to live, but they will never become fragrance brands.  Alabama has Burnt Corn and Muck City.  
Arkansas brings us Greasy Corner and Toad Suck.  Roachtown is in Illinois, and  Belcher is in Louisiana. There’s Tightwad, Missouri, Square Butt, Montana, and Winnemucca, Nevada.  North Carolina has a town called Tick Bite, 
and there’s a Bowlegs, Okahoma.  Tennessee gives us Bucksnort, and Wyoming offers Muddy Gap. 

Like I say, these may be the perfect place to raise a good family.  But their founders were definitely not marketing a brand of fragrance.  So tell me where you live, and what bouquet it conjures when you say it.  And please don’t tell me you live in SquatRotter.
See where my characters live, in my latest three novels here.  Could be your hometown!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Oompa Loompa Legs

          I have Oompa Loompa legs.  I smeared them with tanning cream and now they are orange, like the Oompa Loompas in the Willy Wonka movie. And, unlike movie makeup, this does not come off.
          Oh, sure, eventually it will come off—on my pants, socks, and towels.  But at the moment it’s on there like permanent marker.  Here’s how it happened.
          First, I am as pale as the background of this post you are reading.  In fact, someone could type all over me and you wouldn’t know the difference.  People pay dentists a fortune to whiten their teeth to the color of my skin.
          So I see a darling young mother at church with beautiful tan legs and I ask her if she spends all her time outside to get such a lovely tan and she says no, that it’s a tanning cream.
          Now I’m astounded.  I’ve tried those creams before and they never looked that good.  I dash to Walgreen’s to purchase the very brand she recommends. 
          I shower, exfoliate my legs and feet, then dry off.  Now time for the magic!  I spread the cream on my legs and wear shorts and flip-flops all day so it won’t smudge. 
Three hours later I pass a mirror and gasp.  Not only am I darker than any carrot you can find,

but the color is also in splotchy streaks, as if I lost a paintball war.  If you think I'm posting pictures of my legs, you have another think coming.  These are someone else's legs. 
I contact my friend who tells me she just uses a spot of cream the size of dime and rubs it evenly all over her legs.  A dime?  A DIME?  I’ve been using a fifty-cent piece!   A dime would soak in before I even got up one shin.  And, okay, I did it quickly.  But that’s because I was afraid it would dry before I could smooth it on everywhere.  I also have orange-speckled knuckles on my hands, from rushing when I washed it off.
The whole point was to be able to wear skirts and dresses without pantyhose in this ridiculous triple-digit heat we’ve been having.  Now I have to wear LONG skirts, LONG pants, and gloves to hide my legs and hands, as if it’s the dead of winter.  
Or… I do have one alternative idea.  You know how chevron print is in right now?  You see everyone wearing those cute zig-zag skirts, right? 
Well I have gone one better.  I have chevron print LEGS.  Tell me I’m not a trend-setter.

You can read one of my books while waiting for your chevron legs to dry— check them out here.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

She's Coming Home!

          If you’re a loyal reader (is there such a thing as a disloyal reader?) you know I’m a Latter-day Saint, or Mormon.  And you know that when our 20-year-old daughter was called to serve an 18-month mission for our church, opened the envelope and read “Norway” to us over the phone (she was away at school) that I burst into tears of joy.
          I went there as a tourist, myself, at age 19.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Norway is the most beautiful country I’ve ever visited.  It’s so gorgeous it makes your eyes hurt.  You rub them in disbelief, open them and still can’t believe it’s not a movie set. Here’s just a sampling of the fairy-tale scenery there:
          SOPPY ALERT: Joni is going to wax sentimental here, Schmaltz Level Ten. 
          So I was thrilled that she was going to such an incredible country, but also proud of her choice to serve the Lord with such love and enthusiasm.  And boy, will she return with honor!  She is now 22, and has touched more lives than I can count, and seen tremendous success.  She has taught people there who are from all over the world—Afghanistan, the Philippines, Albania, Nepal, Chile, Eretria, Cambodia, Ghana, Colombia, Nigeria, Romania—I could go on and on. She's on the right in these photos:
 She has also had the door-slams, hostility, and opposition you expect, as well.  And she has handled it with grace and good humor, supreme kindness and compassion.  In Norwegian.
Nicole worked in several cities, including the one that inspired the movie, Frozen, yet never complained once about the sub-zero temperatures or dark winter days. Instead she said that the darker it got, the more filled with light she felt.  And she even got to see the Northern Lights from the king’s palace.
We only get to speak by phone on Christmas and Mother’s Day so her weekly letters have been like Christmas morning for me.  She writes better than I do (by a mile), and spiritually inspires me and motivates me to improve every week.
Not long ago her mission president’s wife wrote, “We all want to be like Sister Hilton ‘when we grow up.’”  All I could think was, “Me, too.”
Shameless plug: If you’d like to know what Nicole has been teaching, it’s the restoration of Christ’s original church, upon the earth again.  You can learn more (and get a free Book of Mormon) here.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The People Whisperer

          You’ve all heard of horse whisperers and dog whisperers, but I am married to a people whisperer.
          I’ve never met anyone quite like St. Bob.  And since this is his birthday month, I am paying tribute to this incredible man and his amazing talents.  Bob used to host and announce TV game shows, but he’s more than a handsome guy with a great voice. 
This man can look into an audience of a thousand people and instantly choose the one person who will jump up and down and scream if she wins, the one person who is terrified of mice, the one person who will take a crazy risk—whatever the act calls for.  Bob can tell a thousand things about you just at a glance.  And he’s always dead-on. Here he is when he was the host of NBC-TV's "Let's Make a Deal":

          Like Superman looking through walls with x-ray vision, Bob can anticipate what someone will say.  And more than once I have clasped my hands over my forehead and said, “Stop reading my mind.  That’s private property.”
          He combines this supernatural ability with some kind of weird Salesman Gene and another Charm Chromosome, and the next thing you know, the whole world is under his enchantment, doing whatever he tells them to. And you ought to see the ladies who melt just chatting with him. Mind you, he is not encouraging this, and is even clearly oblivious to it, but it still happens all the time.
 In our church we’re assigned to visit one another, and Bob was assigned an elderly woman to whom we delivered some Christmas presents one year. While I was standing not ten inches away from him, she leaned between us and whispered into his ear, “I love you!”  Thank goodness she was 30 years his senior.
This is not the first time a woman has had a crush on him. Here’s another totally true example.  At a recent seminar the woman leading it sidled up to him afterwards, while I was standing right there, and asked if he had any brothers.  She kept bumping up against him and saying what a catch he is, and exactly her type.  It was one of those moments when you want to say, “I’m right here; I can hear you.” Later Bob pooh-poohed her interest, but I’m telling you she was practically licking his face.
You know, I can hardly blame these gals for falling under his spell; I still find his charms irresistible.  He’s like a Pied Piper who doesn’t even need a flute—people will just fall in line and follow him. Maybe one reason it works is that he’s not trying to be a smooth operator; he’s just sincerely sweet.  So Happy Birthday, St. Bob—may you be surrounded by luscious cakes and pies, and may all the women in our lives realize I’m standing right here.
St. Bob is also the cameraman for my YouTube Mom videos here, in case you’d like to see yet another of his many talents!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Great Jam to be In

          Yes, my fellow grammar police people, I ended a headline with a preposition.  And, if this were about raspberry jam, I would give you a raspberry right here.
          But it’s not.  It’s about PLUOT jam. Today, if you check my youtube channel here, you’ll see me telling you how to make this super easy freezer jam.  If you haven’t subscribed to my YouTube Mom videos, don’t wait another minute!
          In that video, I promised to post the actual recipe here in my blog, in case you’d like to print it out.  First, let me just say that freezer jam is much easier to make than traditional jam—no boiling water, no tongs.  The only catch is that you have to keep it in the fridge, rather than the pantry.  But it’s a snap to make, so here’s the scoop:
          Begin with sterile jars and lids—run them through the dishwasher.  If using mason jars with rings, use fresh little lids (the disks), rather than used ones, which may not provide a tight seal the second time.  This recipe makes seven 8-oz. jars, so I generally double it to give some as gifts.
          I love to use easy fruit that you don’t have to peel.  This includes berries, of course, but also apricots, plums, and pluots (a hybrid of plum and apricot), shown above.  Wash them, then remove the pits, and chop them: 

Then whirl them in your food processor or blender, to make a pulp. 

          Here’s the recipe:
          3 Cups fruit pulp (add another ¼ Cup if using berries) 
          ¼ Cup lemon juice (double this if you like your jam tart)
          1 pkg. pectin
          1 Cup light corn syrup
          4 & ½ Cups sugar
In a large sauce pan (no heat), stir fruit pulp, lemon juice, and pectin.  Stir every 5 minutes or so, for half an hour.  This is to make sure the pectin is dissolved.  Now stir in the corn syrup, which prevents the sugar from crystalizing in the freezer.  Then stir in the sugar, a cup at a time and heat it to baby-bottle warm, about 100 degrees.  Then pour into jars, attach lids, and freeze.  You’re done!  
When you want some, just take out a jar and thaw it in the fridge.  
Easy peasy, Pluot Squeezy.

And if someone wonderful gave you the fruit in the first place (like my generous neighbor, Mel Thompson), by all means give her a couple of jars to enjoy!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Oh the Tangled Web we Weave!

           You know I love to garden.  I used to whine that I got the worst jobs when my dad and I would work in the dirt, but those early years of toil paid off, and today I can’t wait to get out there, pull weeds, dig holes, and grow plants.  These are just a few of the results in my yard:


          But there’s a down side.  Well, besides the sweat, dirt, thorns, and sore muscles.  Those I can live with. 
It’s the spiders. Yes, I know they’re nature’s helpers, gobbling up the harmful pests.  And if they could do this out of sight I would be fine with it.  But there’s one who not only has no need for privacy, but who is an absolute exhibitionist, suspending himself on a gossamer billboard of his own creation, exactly where the sunlight will shine a spotlight on him.  Or her.
It’s the orb spider.  

Here’s one from my very own yard-- more than two inches long-- and check out the humongous web:

 If you look this hideous creature up online, you will read the following warning:  Be careful not to walk into their webs at night - the fright of this spider crawling over one's face can be terrifying and may cause a heart attack, particularly to the susceptible over 40 year olds.
That’s right.  A HEART ATTACK.  Seriously.  They make a web FOUR FEET WIDE.  And I’m using lots of screaming capital letters because screaming is exactly what you’ll do if you waltz into one of their enormous circular webs.  It’s like coming around a corner and bumping headlong into Gene Simmons. 
On the other hand,  my yard is available for horror movie makers who need a set.  For a modest fee.

Nothing scary in my books, though, so order them here today!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Where are All the Crazy People?

          When I was a little kid my mom would take me shopping in a big department store downtown.  I looked forward to eating lunch in their ritzy restaurant, inhaling deeply as we swept by the perfume counter, and most of all: Seeing the Crazy Lady.  She wore a fur stole regardless of the season, a floppy black hat, and rode the escalators up and down all day, jabbering to herself.  
         For awhile I thought it was an incredible coincidence that she happened to be there every time we were, and then I realized she was probably there every day.  And kudos to the management for letting her do this.  After all, she wasn’t harming anyone, and why not indulge her whims if it made her happy?
          Years ago you’d see folks like this, sitting on park benches, wandering through stores, just being part of our landscape.  For whatever reason they’d lost their grip on reality and were conversing—often in very animated tones—with invisible associates.  I liked the idea that we didn’t hide these people away, but accepted their right to be part of the community, part of our big family.
          Only today you can’t tell who they are.  Everyone seems to be a crazy person.  It’s been approximately 800 degrees outside lately, so last night St. Bob and I went to get an ice cream.  
          And there was an older gentleman shuffling along, his hands in his pockets, muttering, “Yep.  Yep.  Yep.”  Years ago I would have figured him for the hat lady’s brother.  But today, he’s just another guy on his cell phone. 
          In the supermarket last week, another man was scolding someone as he marched along, throwing things in his cart.  “That is not what I told you,” he snapped. “That is not what I said.”  Was he talking to an employee?  A family member?  A space alien zombie of his imagination?
          “Oh, I know, it’s absolutely exhausting,” a woman said into the air as she passed by me at the shopping mall.  Was she musing to herself?  Comforting an invisible friend?  Or on the phone with an actual person?  Snippets of conversation float all around us, and we never know if these are evidence of psychosis or of Verizon’s Friends and Family Plan.
          And I miss the old days.  I miss smiling at the lost individuals to assure them all was well, and I was glad they were there.  Now if I smile at some muttering soul I appear to be eavesdropping or intruding into their Bluetooth conversation.
          Either that, or the entire population has lost its mind, something not entirely out of the realm of possibility.  Yep, yep, yep.
Tell your friends—invisible or real ones—to visit my youtube channel, where I dispense essential life skills three times a week, as the YouTube Mom.  Might even keep you sane, who knows?