Friday, February 27, 2015

Rice Baby to the Rescue!

          Two of my kids have raging colds and that crazy flu bug is hitting everyone hard right now.  Bronchitis, sniffles, sore throats—what can you do?
          Well, there’s still no cure for the common cold, but there are ways to speed along your recovery.  Doctors tell us to take Vitamin C, drink plenty of liquids, and get tons of rest—all good ideas.
          But we also need to avoid chills and stay warm.  And here’s a great way to do it.  Today I’m sharing one of my YouTube Mom videos, that shows you how to make your own heating pad:
          It’s so simple to do, and will become a favorite family item in no time.  Just fill a clean tube sock (or a knee sock) with 2 pounds of uncooked rice, then tie it off and microwave it for 2 minutes on full power.  Voila!  You’ll be amazed at how long this wonderful, bendable heater stays warm.  Here are some I made as Christmas presents, using red-and-green argyle socks:
          Wrap it around sore neck muscles, snuggle up to it under the covers, and definitely use it to warm up those cold tootsies during winter weather.  Keep it dry and it will last for years!

          And as long as you’re housebound, read some good books.  Try Sisters in the Mix for a hilarious chick-lit story about a crazy lady with a cooking show, Jungle for a spine-tingling adventure-romance on an uncharted island, or Pinholes Into Heaven, a coming of age literary novel about a man growing up in the 1950s.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ever Pulled a Joni?

          The other day I’m walking through a drugstore and I hear two guys in the next aisle, talking.  One says, “So I’m going into my parking spot, and I almost pull a Brady.”  The other one laughs, knowing exactly what this means.
          What, exactly, is this Brady person known for?  Smashing into other cars?  Pulling up too far and hitting his own grill on a wall?  Parking so crooked that no one else can park beside him?
          The fellows moved on their way so I shall never know.  But it made me wonder what it would mean if someone said, “So I pulled a (your name here) today.”  What are you known for?
          And what am I known for?  If someone “pulled a Joni” what on earth would that mean?  I thought about asking my children, and then my closest friends, but to tell you the truth, I don’t want to know.  How could it be something positive, right?
          I made a list of what “pulling a Joni” could mean.  It could mean that you started shopping for Christmas in June. It could mean you stopped in the middle of a sentence and started a new one.  It could mean that you entered a recipe in a contest without cooking it first.  And those are just the things I’ll admit to in print.  It could also mean a host of things I’m not ready to face.
          If someone pulls a "you" are they late all the time?  Do they tell a story that puts everyone to sleep at a party?  Do they buy something without looking at the price tag?  Do they get in a fight with their boss and get fired?  Do they adopt yet another cat?  
Do they date all the wrong people?  Do they find fifty bucks on the sidewalk?
          Imagine you’re famous and someone has an impersonation act.  They’re “doing you” on stage—what would be the lines that are so you?  Is there something that’s almost a cliché of how you are?  St. Bob and I tried to imagine what “pulling a Joni” or “pulling a Bob” would be and decided not to share the things that came to our minds for one another.  Sometimes it’s simply best not to know.
          And hiding from reality.  There’s a typical Joni move for you.

Pull a Joni and click here to get happily lost in the incredible book bargains you’ll see!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Friday, February 20, 2015

It's a Sham!

          Seriously, could men and women be more different?   I won a trip to the fabulous Miraval Spa a couple of weeks ago, and we asked Richie to drive us to the airport.  Richie’s our eldest, and you may recall he just moved home while he job hunts.
          Just as we pulled up to the curb at the airport, I gasped.  “I forgot to put all the pillows on our bed!” I shouted.  “Oh my gosh, what if we crash and die, and people go into our bedroom?”  Here is how it’s supposed to look:
          Neither Richie nor St. Bob grasped the urgency of this situation.  I turned to our son.  “As soon as you get home, cover our pillows with the pillow shams.” 
          Richie smiled, and said, “I think it’s amusing that your dying thought as you go down in the plane will be, ‘Does Richie know what a pillow sham is?’”
          “Google it!” I yelled as we hurried off with our luggage.  I really hope that kid Googles it.  He has got to Google it.  Had our daughter, Nicole, been there, she’d know exactly what to do. And she would know its importance.  And in one more effort to save the world, I am posting some pictures of pillow shams:


       And thus we see yet another difference between men and women. Not only do women know the terms for every type of linen and its uses, but the nuances of color.  To us, there’s crimson, cranberry, coral, brick, tomato, garnet, cherry, maroon, and more.  To Richie and most men, there’s just red. 
          You can do this with any color.  Women will describe olive, mint, grass, forest, avocado, chartreuse, emerald, sage, and moss while most guys will call them all green.
          Home accents just aren’t on Richie’s radar. Thus I was not surprised to return home and find my shams and throw pillows on the love seat, instead of on the bed where they belong.  It’s a miracle I was able to relax at that spa, I tell you. 

Speaking of relaxing, curl up with a good book and escape to an uncharted island in my adventure-romance, Jungle.  I’m pretty sure you’ll be more worried about cannibals and deadly animals than pillow shams.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Breaking the House

              St. Bob and I have a policy: No puppies.  We love dogs and always have a rescue pooch or two around the house, but for ten years or so we’ve agreed only to adopt dogs one year old, or older.
            Why is this, you ask?  Okay, you may not have asked it, but I’m telling you why.  Puppies, despite being one of the most adorable creatures ever, do not come into the world potty-trained.  They piddle at will, and they chew on things constantly-- as evidenced by this book of ours-- chewed on by one of our dogs.  The irony is unmistakable:
By the time you get them house-broken, it is entirely possible that your house will indeed be broken. 
            To prevent sofas, shoes, lamp cords, and everything else you own from being chewed, you take two safety measures.  First, put away all that you can, certainly your shoes, socks, and handbags.  Second, give your dog plenty of approved chew toys.
            As for housebreaking, here’s how you do it:  You take off a week and you do nothing else that entire week except watch the dog like a hawk.  You take him outside every half hour, giving him no chance whatsoever to piddle inside.  When he piddles outside, you reward him.  Over and over, for days on end.  Eventually he gets it that he has to piddle outside.  If he has an accident inside, you do not scream or beat the dog—you simply start over again.  Smart dogs will learn in a week’s time.  Semi-smart dogs might take a couple of weeks.
            And then there’s Mickey.
            Mickey is in the group that cannot remember and, just as you might love a dopey friend, can still be part of our family.  But she is a scalawag who cannot be trusted, so she is confined to a large downstairs area with baby gates.  After flawlessly using her doggie door for an entire year, I gave in to that big-eyed pathetic look she has mastered, and gave her a chance at the rest of the house. 
             Big mistake.  And, really, it’s my own fault, because St. Bob and our daughter, Nicole, brought her home from the shelter—at six months old-- and I didn’t read through the stack of paperwork carefully.  Most notably, I missed the line where her previous owner was asked if she was housebroken and wrote, “Somewhat.”
             You see, there is no “somewhat” when it comes to being housebroken.  It’s like being pregnant—you are or you aren’t.  If a dog is still having accidents, even if they’re months apart, she is not housebroken.
             It doesn’t mean I don’t pamper and spoil her. 
             Low IQ or not, she gets more love and attention than most people.  She just doesn’t get to piddle under the piano.  She also doesn’t have to worry that a bouncy new puppy will be joining the clan anytime soon.

For a book that you may wish to devour, check out my newest novels here.  

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Incredible Shrinking... Toilet Paper?

          No, you are not suddenly growing larger as the world shrinks around you-- stuff is getting smaller.  And it had to happen with toilet paper.  According to and the Washington Post, the old 4.5-inch toilet paper squares are now half an inch smaller.  Great.  Even the cardboard tubes are getting smaller, and the rolls themselves contain less paper.  The Wall Street Journal says this process of selling less paper for the same price is called “desheeting.”  Butt of course.
          I can understand companies trying to make up for losses—after all, fewer people are buying the paper towels and napkins these companies make, since office and restaurants are offering fewer napkins, and they often use air-dryers in the restrooms.  But why not just charge a few extra cents for a normal roll of toilet paper?  Everything goes up in price due to inflation; we know that. 
          Surely mattress makers are not scaling down their mattresses when their income drops; they just charge more for the same size mattress.  Otherwise, where does it stop—when we’re all sleeping on crib-sized mattresses?  What about books—should we expect the last 50 pages to be missing?
And think about the repercussions:  If you change the standard size of toilet paper, do you then retro-fit all the toilet paper holders in the world?
          Are they hoping we won’t notice?  It’s like dry cereal boxes that are suddenly much smaller and contain less cereal, yet cost the same as yesterday’s larger box.  I’m waiting for a splashy red graphic to read, “Now smaller than ever!”  or “Less food, but amazing same price!”
And what of the recipes that are thrown off by calling for a can of corn (used to be 16.5 ounces), which has now shrunk to 14.75 ounces?  Are these companies hoping we won’t notice?  That one-pound package of hotdogs you think you’re buying is really only 14 ounces.  The age-old 5-pound bag of sugar now weighs four.  And your half-gallon of ice cream is only a quart and a half today.  Orange juice, tuna, pasta, yogurt, cheese, chips, deodorant, shampoo —they’ve all been downsized. 
Nobody begrudges a company making a profit, it’s the sneakiness that bothers me.  It’s their effort to sell an illusion, and make it seem as if we’re getting the same thing when we’re not.  This does no service to those scraping by, either—they end up having to buy more to make up for the dinky packaging. Personally, I’d rather pay more and know what I’m getting, before we’re all buying postage-stamp-sized rolls of toilet paper.  But I’ll tell you this: "Going Postal" would have a whole new meaning.

No tricky size change in my books, no siree!  Find them here at the same wonderful low price, and same wonderful high quality!      

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My Valentine Gift to You

          Valentine’s Day is this week, and I know you’re wondering what glorious, decadent dessert you can make for your sweetheart.  Okay, maybe you’re wondering what glorious, decadent dessert they’re making for you, but either way, this is the answer.  It’s my killer Orange Soufflé with Vanilla Cream Sauce. This picture shows it just as I pulled it out of the oven:
          You may remember that I used to post recipes on this blog, under the “What’s Cooking with Joni” tab.  Then it became overwhelming, so I left the existing recipes up, but just didn’t add any new ones.  Until now.  I simply MUST share this with you and you must stop living a life of FFD (French Food Deprivation).
          Do not be scared to make a soufflé.  I have simplified this for you and you will be thrilled with the result. (If you want it to be pink for Valentine’s Day, just add a teaspoon of red food coloring and use a teaspoon of strawberry or raspberry extract instead the quarter-cup of juice.  Omit the orange zest entirely—it will be fine.)
          Orange Souffle
          Here’s what you need:
                1 6- or 7-inch soufflé dish, buttered or sprayed with nonstick spray
          3 Tablespoons butter
          3 Tablespoons flour
          ¾ Cup heavy cream
          ¼ Cup sugar
          ¼ teaspoon salt
          1 Tablespoon grated orange zest (use a rasp if you can)
          ¼ Cup fresh orange juice
          4 eggs, separated
          1 teaspoon powdered sugar

                Here’s how to do it:
1.   First, do like the French, and get all your stuff laid out before you start combining things.  This is called mise en place and has nothing to do with mice.  It basically means “put in place,” and you’ll be glad you did.  So separate the eggs into two bowls, butter or spray your soufflé dish, get your orange rind grated, etc.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.   Next, whisk the butter and flour together in a sauce pan over low heat, stirring until it makes a smooth paste (takes about 1 minute).  I use a gravy whisk which looks like this, but use any whisk you like.
3.   Now SLOWLY pour in the cream, whisking as you go, until it’s thick and smooth.  You’re basically making a white sauce.  Keep stirring as you add the sugar, salt, zest, and juice.  Cook for 3 minutes more, then remove from heat.
4.   Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon yellow.  Pour a tiny amount  of the white sauce into the yolks, whisking vigorously.  Pour in a little more, then a little more, stirring all the while, until it’s all poured in and well mixed.  By pouring it in gradually you keep the hot mixture from cooking the yolks.
5.   Using clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form, in another bowl, then gently fold into warm mixture.  Spoon into the buttered soufflé dish. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Place in a roasting pan and pour hot water into the pan until it comes up 1 inch high on the sides of the soufflé dish.  This is called a water bath—be sure not to use cold water.  Now bake 45 minutes and you’re done!  Serve immediately.
6.   WHILE IT BAKES, make the Vanilla Cream Sauce.  Trust me; this is going to take your soufflé to Swoon Level.  Serve this sauce warm or room temperature over the soufflé, which you will spoon into serving dishes. 
Vanilla Cream Sauce

Here’s what you need:
¼ Cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 Cup plus 1 splash of heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Here’s what to do: Stir sugar and yolks in a small sauce pan until well mixed.  Add cream and vanilla, cooking over medium-low heat until it’s a thick enough custard to coat a spoon, about 5 minutes.  Don’t scald it or it will curdle.  Pour through a fine wire strainer, discard residue, and allow sauce to cool slightly as soufflé bakes.  Spoon over soufflé servings.  Serves 6. 
I know you’re going to want to thank me, and the best way is to buy my books!  Be a Valentine Sweetheart and check ‘em out at this link!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Lights, Camera, Action!

          I’m proud of all four of my children, but today I must tell you about the one who’s a filmmaker.  
His name is Cassidy (so named five years before it became a girl’s name, and yes he has done a standup routine about this in college).
          When Cassidy was three years old, I was folding laundry in my bedroom and heard him out in the hall, crying.  I dashed out to see what was the matter.
          “I’m just practicing my fake cry,” he said.
          I went back to folding.  Soon I heard him crying again, only this time it sounded even worse.  I couldn’t resist—I went to check on him.    With a peeved edge to his voice, he told me I did not need to keep checking on him, that he was simply practicing his fake cry.   
          “Well, knock it off,” I said.  “It’s too convincing.”  And that’s probably the moment when I realized he was destined for entertainment.
          Mind you, St. Bob and I were living in L.A., were in “the biz,” and it was the last thing we wanted for our kids, right?  But then and there I knew I had an actor and a storyteller on my hands, and as he grew I saw unmistakable talent. No way could I steer him in some other direction, any more than he could fake cry less convincingly.
          He made the morning videos that were broadcast into all the home rooms in his high school, and from there began making documentaries, corporate videos, kickstarter campaigns, and short films (see them on his website). His latest short film was inspired by the song, Fix You, by Coldplay, and I hope you’ll take five minutes to watch it here. As soon as it posted, it got 5,000 hits.
          The only thing missing is a middle-aged mother bursting onto the scene and saying, “Stop it, all of you—you’re too convincing.”
Cassidy  is married to Tiffany, an equally talent artist and stylist, whose fashion blog,, is also a must-read.  Cass and his siblings are in several of my books, by the way.  Check  ‘em out here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Adventures of Ampersand

          Behold the humble ampersand.
          If it were still the last letter of our alphabet, as it once was, it would be my favorite letter, if only because of its lovely loops and swirls. But alas, it got whacked.
          The ampersand came from Roman scribes who wrote in cursive, and linked the e and the t when they were writing “et” (and).  English kids would recite the alphabet, and rather than say, “X, Y, Z, and” which makes you want to ask, “And what?” they would say “and per se,” which means “and by itself.”
           Naturally, it didn’t take long for “and per se” to get mumbled and slurred into “ampersand,” and now that’s the name for this symbol.  How cool that one letter stood for a whole word, right?  But it’s no longer in our alphabet, I am sad to report.  And it’s not the only casualty of Old English giving way to modern times.
          This is a letter called a “thorn,” for the th sound.  It got replaced by Y.  Don’t ask Y.  But this is why Ye Olde Candy Shoppe is spelled like that—they’re really saying the old candy shop.  And we don’t know our history, so we pronounced it Ye, as if we’re saying You Old Candy Shop.
          Another letter went by the wayside, as well: The Wynn.  It was replaced by “uu” which evolved into our w. It looked like this:
          If you think both of them look like “P” in a stylish font, I agree.  Seriously, how many variations on P did we need?  So maybe it’s just as well the thorn and the wynn went away.  But the ampersand?  I truly miss it.
& you must visit my website & purchase my books & watch my Youtube Mom videos. I thank you & you & you.