Friday, August 29, 2014

Just Driving Around

I don’t understand boredom.  All one need do is to hop in the car and drive around.  At least where I live, you can be infinitely entertained.  Here are four vehicles I saw this week, just tooling around town:
          Yes, that says, “Placer Snake Removal.”  I live in Placer County, and I am happy to see an enterprising soul who is attempting to compete with my cat, Simon.  I don’t know how many reptiles this fellow has captured lately, but something tells me my cat could be his employee-of-the-week.
          Here’s a guy at the other end of the spectrum.  He loves animals so much that he cannot even take his motorcycle on the freeway without carrying his pooch along.  I have no idea how the pooch feels about this, but I do have an inkling how the highway patrol feels about it. 
          This one I’ll admit is the blurriest photo I will ever post.  I had to snap it from a distance, so you’ll have to trust me that this car is filled to bursting with hats.  That’s right, hats.  As if this car is the answer to the question, “What do you do when your hat collection overflows your house?”
          And, finally, I saw a truck that says, "Hannibal's Catering."  With a name that-- well, I’ll just let you draw your own conclusions.  But you and I are thinking the same thing.
          Help your friends ward off boredom, as well.  Tell them to subscribe in the little box at the top left of this home page—easy, peasy, boredom no moredom.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cramming for Errands

          I like friendly clerks.  I like courtesy.  But suddenly, everywhere I go, clerks are waaay more than friendly; they’ve become interrogators.
          It’s all because of this new Voice of the Customer fixation so many companies have, now.  They all want to do surveys to make sure you were greeted properly, so bosses have told clerks everywhere to be a bit more chatty.  Ask them how their weekend was.  Or what they’ve been doing today.  Or what they have planned for the rest of the day.  Or for the weekend.
          Suddenly I have to account for every minute of my day.  My foray to the supermarket for a pint of cream has turned into a courtroom cross examination where I’m expected to rattle off a morning filled with noble accomplishments.  And a matching afternoon.
          “So what are you doing the rest of the day?” I am asked, as if I owe this teenager a list of my remaining errands.  And we both know the clerk doesn’t give a flying rip what I’m actually going to do—yet to point this out seems petulant, as if I’m refusing the play the game.  

          Now I ask you: Why do I have to cram for an exam, just to go shopping?  I’m one of those people who make lists in a calendar.  But unless I’m looking at the list, I have no idea what I just did or what I’m doing next.  I keep myself on a need-to-know basis, you know?
So I try to recall the items I will shortly be reading from my calendar, once I get in the car.  I feel stress mounting.  I know there are several worthy pursuits penciled in, but I can’t just rattle them off.  If only I’d known there would be a test, and I would have to justify my life!  A person could break out in a sweat—or hives—with this kind of incessant grilling.
Ever have one of those stress dreams where you get to class and there’s an exam on material you didn’t even know about?  Welcome to my supermarket, bank, dry cleaners’, department store and fast-food drive-through.
So I’m flipping this thing on its head (my frequent response to stress, by the way). I’m going to have a ready response, and by the way it’s a true one.  You know how I’m LDS (Mormon)?  Much of my days are given to visiting people, attending baptisms, sitting in on missionary lessons, and reading scriptures.  So, instead of trying not to be pushy, I’m going bold.  I’m going to say, “I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I’m visiting a shut-in today.  Would you like to know more about my church?”  I figure they’ll stop pummeling me with questions or they’ll actually be curious—either way it’s a win-win.  Hey, they brought it up.

Half of my 23 books are for the mainstream, and half are for the LDS market .  Well, not half because you can’t divide 23 evenly.  But roughly half.  And the latest one is LDS Nursery Rhymes, hot off the presses here.  Worth a look-see, then you can tell clerks that’s what you did today.

Friday, August 22, 2014


          “Hey,” St. Bob says, “Birds are exploding in mid-air over California.”
          I roll my eyes.  “Are there kids with BB guns below them?”  Once again, I am sure there is a rational explanation.
          First I ask him where he’s reading this, and look over his shoulder at his cell phone.  This has got to be another anti-California article about acid rain or metaphysical retribution from jealous birds in the next life, who didn’t get to live by the ocean.
          But no—it’s a legitimate article in a legitimate newspaper, USA Today.  The headline reads, Why birds are igniting in midair over Calif.
          And it turns out that every two minutes, a bird is scorched to death by the light rays coming from BrightSource Energy plant, the largest solar thermal power plant in the world.
          This plant (built for $2.2 billion) has 300,000 mirrors the size of garage doors, and they all focus the sun’s power toward 40-story-tall “power towers.”  And it doesn’t take a genius to see what could happen in the path of those stunning beams—experts say as many as 28,000 birds will die within a year, drawn to bugs that are drawn to light. Thousands are already dead, and pilots flying in and out of L.A. and Las Vegas report being dazzled by the light as well.  Hard to believe?  Here’s the link. 
          Wait a second.  Aren’t solar plants supposed to be nature-friendly?  Isn’t that their entire appeal?  So what happens when the environmentally aware facilities turn on the environment?
          The article doesn’t say what’s currently being done to remedy this mass genocide (I’m guessing nothing), but something tells me there’ll be plenty of feral cats out there, holding butterfly nets and smacking their lips.
Have you visited my website, lately?  It will shed light on some great books you can buy and videos you can watch.  But I promise that light will not make you spontaneously ignite. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Rhyme Time

          I have a new book out!  You know how nursery rhymes are basically creepy and weird?  At best, they’re outdated.  So I’ve written a bunch of new ones.  This new book is called LDS Nursery Rhymes and it captures Latter-Day Saint, or Mormon, life for kids.  But anyone can enjoy it—I own Jewish books, Catholic books, on and on—and it rounds out our understanding of one another to appreciate the good in any group.

          And wait until you see the gorgeous illustrations, by Trilea Minson.  Kids will love it!  Parents and grandparents will enjoy reading the rhymes, and reinforcing the virtues we all embrace.  Here’s one of the rhymes, to give you a sneak peek:

  Mack and Millie crossed the plains
            In one big covered wagon.
            Through the snow
            And through the ice
            The oxen started draggin’.
            And so they prayed with all their might
            Somehow they would arrive
            And sure enough,
            Though it was rough,
            They made it all alive.
            They fought the crickets, built a home
            And a posterity,
            And then that bunch
            Had bunches more
            And one of them is me!

               LDS Nursery Rhymes is the perfect gift for Baby Showers, New Parents, Baby Blessings, Grandparents, Birthdays, Christmas, Kids, and Friends.  It's available now here, or at the BYU Store in Provo, Utah (and soon on Amazon), so order yours today!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Snug as a...

            Here is the perfect metaphor for my life.  A few days ago I am at Walmart.  I know, right?  You’re thinking, “You can stop right there—this says it all.”  But there’s more.  So much more.
            St. Bob and I have gone there because he needs his sunglasses adjusted in their optical shop.  A simple enough errand, no?  Soon we are heading out, and just a few feet from the exit, I see a walking stick on the floor.  This is not a walking stick as in a cane, but a walking stick as in “garden insect that looks kind of like a preying mantis.”  And it’s huge, maybe 6 inches long.  Here is what these clever masters of disguise look like:
            And I love animals, right?  This poor thing is right in the path of shoppers and rolling carts, so I dig through my purse, find a card, and scoop him up with it.  Gingerly I carry him out, cross the driveway to the bushes by the parking lot, and touch the card to a bush so he can see he is back in nature, safe again.
            But instead of climbing off the card and onto a branch, he leaps into the air and goes flapping and flying back across the roadway we just crossed.
            And bam!  Five starlings from the stupid Walmart trees are on him like ninja warriors. 
            I gasp and turn to Bob.  Bob, he of the deep voice, is now giggling like a little girl.  A VERY little girl.  With a small, unsympathetic mind.
            “That’s terrible!” I shout, half to describe the demise of my little friend, and half to appropriately label his disappointing behavior.
            Bob is laughing so hard he can hardly drive, and I am tempted to get out of the car and walk home.  He suggests that the walking stick had been fighting off birds all morning and finally made it to the safety of the store, when some woman scooped him up and threw him back into the jaws of death.  He wipes tears of mirth his eyes.
            At home he relays the events to our daughter, Nicole, who also finds this hilarious, and now I am wondering why I live with these barbarians when I am so clearly meant to save the world.
I may not be able to save every insect, but I can save anyone who needs life skills.  Just watch a few of my YouTube Mom videos here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Name That Street!

         Yesterday my neighbor told me that she and her husband were driving around, wondering who comes up with street names.
          I have the answer: Me. 
Seriously, this is my newest endeavor.  It’s been on my bucket list forever, and after doing some research and talking to a buddy of mine who’s a city manager, I am now being asked by several companies to help them name streets.  And I can hardly contain my excitement.  No more silly street names (Stuppi Street—are you kidding me?) and no more names that nobody can pronounce or spell.
I am only submitting names of streets where you’d be proud to live, and I’m happy to work with whatever themes or topography I’m assigned.  Here are just a few I’ve placed this week: Hampton Drive, Westminster Lane, Regency Court, Princeville Point, Golden Summer Cove, Whispering Pines Way, Carriage Crossing, and Deer Haven Court. I also check them against Google Earth to make sure they’re not already taken in the specific city.
One company asked for 60 names that were “obscure.”  St. Bob was hovering nearby as I read the request, and here’s how our conversation went:
Bob: How obscure are we talking?  I know—send him 1st Street, 2nd Street, 3rd Street—
Joni: Good idea.  I can end with 60th street, and then say if he needs more he can use 61st Street,  62nd Street—
Bob: Then say, “I have hundreds of these.”
Well now I’m laughing my head off, but Bob isn’t done.
Bob: Here’s a good one.  Sea anemenomenome.
Joni: You mean Sea Anemone?  I would never use that one.
Bob: Why not?  People could ask where you live and you could say, I live on Sea anenemenonome, I mean Sea amonemenee, oh nevermind.
Joni: Exactly why I wouldn’t use that.
Now Bob grabs a can of fish balls—yes, Nicole brought them home from Norway and we’re afraid to open them—they’re called Fiskeboller (or Fiskbullar in Swedish).
Bob: There must be 20 good names on this label alone!  Ravarutillgang, kryddextrakter, potatismjul, fortjockningsmedel—

Now I am laughing so hard I’m crying.  It doesn’t matter that I have not asked for Bob’s help; I’m going to get it anyway.  So if you’re driving around someday and you see a street name with 20 letters, you’ll know St. Bob was there.
No matter what street you live on, Amazon and CreateSpace can deliver my books right to your doorstep-- order today!

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Norwegian Welcome Home

          You may think the way to beat this crazy summer heat is to jump into a pool or gulp down a big glass of ice water.
          But take it from me, the woman whose makeup melts down onto her neck when the mercury rises to 113 (yes, A HUNDRED AND THIRTEEN!!).  The way to beat the heat is
          ICE CREAM.
          When our daughter, Nicole, returned from the much cooler land of Norway, where she’s been serving an 18-month LDS church mission, we decided to invite friends to an open house, welcoming her back.  

          Uncle Ken and Aunt Sherri sent this gorgeous yellow arrangement:

          But instead of turning on the oven and risking spontaneous combustion in this ridiculous weather, I chose to have an ice cream sundae bar. But not just any ice cream sundae bar.  None of this Cub Scout cheapie ice cream with syrup out of a squeeze bottle.  Instead, I decided to have gourmet syrups and toppings, then label them both in English and Norwegian.  And we all slid in to happy, heat-free delirium.
          And so, my dear readers, I am sharing this idea with you to save you from heat exhaustion, sun stroke, and from being too thin.  Here’s how to dress up your ice cream if you live in Joniopolis:
          We started with good chocolate and vanilla ice cream.  Next, make a wonderful hot fudge sauce and stir in crumbled bits of cooked bacon. 
Also make a salted caramel sauce.
Then offer the following items to be spooned on or sprinkled:

You cannot go wrong with these items because there’s something for everyone— fruity, nutty, sweet, spicy—it’s all there.  We even served the orange soda Norwegians love.  And guess what?  Even though they spend much of the year in frigid weather, Norwegians are smart: They eat ice cream all year round.

Check out my website, and look for my cooking videos—I’m the Youtube Mom, and many of the videos on my channel teach you how to make luscious yummers in the kitchen.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

National Burglar Night

          I know, it sounds crazy.  But we live in a crazy world.  Tonight, my friends, is National Burglar Night (why should this minority not have its own night?) 
          Sure, they’re calling it National Night Out, but are you telling me this is not a giant signal to every thief in the nation to get out his Zorro mask and make the day of it?  Okay, night of it?
          Seriously. This annual event urges residents to gather down the block at some park or at someone else’s home to strengthen community bonds and raise awareness of crime.  Oh, you’ll raise awareness all right.  It will start when you return home and find the place ransacked.
          Do you think burglars are unaware of this “holiday”?  They get the same flyers stuck in their door that I do, I believe.  And they’re probably all high-fiving one another this very minute, at Louie’s Hideaway Bar.  Maybe they’re even divvying up the addresses.
          And then, while our kids are jumping in a bounce house, and we’re sampling the potluck offerings of our neighbors, thieves will quietly be loading our jewelry and electronics into their utility vans.
          Volunteers for the police department typically show up to wear their badges for a couple of hours, and to tell us to watch out for any suspicious vehicles (like the ones probably parked in front of our homes while we're hobnobbing with the law).
          I’m thinking a better idea would be to have random, quiet, unpublicized Neighborhood Watch meetings from time to time.  But as for a nationwide campaign, how about we take a bite out of crime by all staying home for once?  We could call it National Night In.

Dare I say my latest books are a steal?  Check ‘em out here.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Fainting Spell

          I don’t know if you’ve ever been invited to a piano rectal, but it’s sure to be more interesting than one without accompaniment, no?
          Misspellings abound.  And we all make them (come on, admit to the occasional typo, at least).  But I am always perplexed when they occur after several sets of eyes have seen the wording.  
          Think about it—how many people have to approve a printed program, an invitation, a public sign?  You have the creator, their friends, the company producing the printed item, the painter perhaps—at least a dozen people.  And yet you see misspellings everywhere.   Even the word misspell gets misspelled.

          Just driving around the Sacramento area where I live, I’ve seen two such slip-ups this week.  The first is this street sign:
          Lest you think both signs are wrong—one for ocelot and one for suave-- I must tell you that this is wine country and soave is an Italian white wine that’s pronounced So-Ah-Ve, so I’m going to give them a pass on that one.  But oselot?  No such word and no such animal.  And we can only put just so much blame on the school system—I fault the developers here.  Who in their right mind wants to live on a misnamed street?
          The next blatant error was on the side of a truck.  Apparently they cannot even spell the very thing they rent.  Nor can the truck painters.  In case this is too small for you to read, it says, "Equiptment Rental."
          I’m thinking I might attend that piano rectal, after all.  Why should the child be punished for the carelessness of an adult who made up the invitations?  Just as I was happy to attend a Boy Scout Court of Honor where a poem called “The Uninformed Boy” was front and center on the program.  The boys were sitting there in their uniforms, and it was someone else entirely who was uninformed.
If you love words, you’ll love Sisters in the Mix, in which one of my characters takes grammar and spelling just a pinch too far.