Tuesday, March 31, 2015

April Day of Truth

            St. Bob and I were in Home Depot the other day and I suggested sticking adhesive linoleum tiles to the back of a buckling rug, since carpet tape is too flimsy.  “Wow, that’s really thinking outside the box,” the sales clerk said.
            I later whispered to Bob, “What he doesn’t know is that I live outside the box.  I’m so far away I can’t even see the box.”
             “You need to be boxed,” Bob said. And this may be true (but my box would have legs so I could run around and bug whomever I wish). 
            Anyway, you know how I like to turn things around and upside down, so here’s my out-of-the-box idea for revamping April Fools’ Day.  First of all, I hate April Fools’.  Yes, hate is a strong word.  But I hate being duped and then feeling like a dope.  I also hate tricking others and making them feel small and stupid.  It’s even worse, actually, because then I feel like a bully.  Clever foods, like cookies that look like tiny hamburgers, I am all for.  Bring ‘em on.  But not mean pranks.
           SO… to solve this horrible holiday horror, I propose we turn April 1st into April Day of Truth.  Stay with me, because this could be far more hilarious than salt in a sugar jar.  Here’s how it would work:  For a solid day, people can only speak the absolute truth.  Here is how life would change immediately:
            Supermarket Checker:  Congratulations, Mrs. Hilton. Looks like we overcharged you four dollars and eleven cents today.
            Waiter: I’m not interested in how it’s going or if you’re enjoying your meal.
Mechanic: Your car needs no repairs whatsoever.
  Grocery clerk:  I don’t care if you’ve found everything you need, and also you’re in my way because I’m sweeping here.
            Vet: Your dog doesn’t really need all these tests, but I need the $600.00.
            Attorney: No, I probably won’t call you right back.  Not for days.
            Okay, maybe this is not such a hot idea.  Except for the mechanic, we would be bombarded with bad news.  Absolute honesty could completely ruin an otherwise pleasant day.   And, even though we know it’s not entirely sincere, well-mannered wishes for us to have a good day or enjoy our meal, make life more civil, if not downright enjoyable.  So not all outside-the-box ideas are good ones.  But at least they help me accept the status quo, and a few drops of green food coloring in the milk carton.
Here’s the perfect idea for you: Buy my books on kindle or in hard copies at 
this link.  No trick to this, whatsoever.       


Friday, March 27, 2015

Give Me a Jingle

I just saw a photo on Facebook, of some teenagers using a land line phone for the first time.  Their eyes are wide with delight at holding the funny receiver to their heads, a curly cord leading to a heavy, avocado green box on the wall, with a round, plastic dial.

          They look the same way I did when I first looked into an antique stereoscope from a hundred years ago.  This is so quaint!  Look how they used to see pictures in 3-D!
          The land line, for them, is like a wash board or a Victrola—something you see in a period piece movie, users of which are all dead, now. 
          Except many of us remember it well and even miss it.  I used to have a pen with a rotating ball on one end, specifically for dialing.  And remember our delight in dialing someone whose number was filled with ones and twos, meaning it took hardly any time at all?  When someone had zeros and nines in their number, it meant waiting forever, as the dial clicked back into place.
          I also remember holding that curly cord so the receiver could hang down and unwind, after getting all knotted up.  And hearing that warning beep that you didn’t hang up all the way, leaving the line off the hook.  These sound like inconveniences, but compared to the zoned-out expressions of the texters, and the constant ringing of cell phones in every public place imaginable today, they seem like pretty small problems.
          When the land line phone rang, kids would scramble to get it, almost as if opening a surprise box on your doorstep.  Who would be calling?  And it was an honor to be the one to snap up the receiver and speak for your whole family.  If it was someone calling from far away, you’d cover the receiver and say, “Mom, it’s for you—and it’s long distance!” which meant, “Hurry—this is an expensive call!”
As a little girl I dreamed of the Princess Phone.  Not only was it pink, but the dial lit up in the dark! 
          If you didn’t grow up with a land line, you also missed the era of phone pranks, something we’re probably better off without, but which comprised many a child’s entertainment years ago.  We’d get together with our friends and call someone we knew, or someone we didn’t.  There was no Caller I.D. at the time, so we were blissfully anonymous in our silliness, asking some of these old standbys:
(To a tobacco shop) Do you have Prince Albert in a can? (Yes, they would say)  At which point we would shriek, Then let him out!
Or, Is your refrigerator running?  (Yes) Then you’d better go catch it!
Or, Your dog is in my garden!  (I don’t have a dog)  Then I don’t have a garden!
Another common joke was to call and ask for Mary a few times, then call again and say, This is Mary—do I have any messages?
It’s a tribute to moms and dads of that era, that they tolerated these ridiculous interruptions.  But in those days, they knew kids needed something to do, and this seemed harmless, if a bit stupid.
Today we’re more accessible; we carry our phones on our persons, available to the world every minute of the day. We know immediately who’s calling, we can press a button to tell them we’ll call back, and we can even see one another as we speak.  I guess it’s progress.  But I miss the anticipation, the sharing of phone time, the appreciation of someone calling from far away.  It made people, and conversation, seem more rare and valuable.  And it only took a tiny sliver of our family time, instead of today’s ratio, which is, sadly, just the opposite.

Heck, put down the phone and read a good book

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Signing Up

You may recall that my last blog post was about visiting a friend in the hospital.  But what you did not know is that this is the sign posted just inches from the entrance:
          To my way of thinking, this beats a “No Solicitors” sign all to pieces.  Seriously, is there a message more opposite of “Welcome”?  What I like is the bottom part, urging you to “Give them distance and respect.”  Can’t you just see it?  A rattler’s fangs are sunk into your ankle and you’re shaking your foot, yelling, “But I respected you!” 
          This is not the only curious sign in my neck of the woods.  Sometimes you find amusing signs in local supermarkets.  I love a bargain, so from time to time I stroll down the aisle of a decidedly discounted market where you can find not only low prices, but low humor:
          It makes you wonder if people who are unable to control their bladders are all gathered on that aisle, having a support meeting.
          Another store, another aisle, we see listings of general categories.  And then, suddenly, a specific brand of a specific item: Pop Tarts.  But get this: There are no Pop Tarts on that aisle, anywhere.
          Even on the roadways there are curious signs.  This truck’s sign says Electrick Motorsports: 
          And maybe that extra K is because a guy named Rick owns it, who knows?  But it reminds me of a campaign poster: Elect Rick. In any case, he has my vote because I like golf carts and that’s what they sell.  Not sure if driving in a golf cart is an actual sport, but then the way I’d drive one, I think it might qualify.

You’ve simply got to buy my humorous novel, Sisters in the Mix. The main character fixes the grammar on public signs, among other pursuits.  And if you’ve never actually done that, at least you can live vicariously.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Rehab for Joni

          Okay, I need to go skiing.  Clearly this is my ticket to being gorgeous and having all my wits about me.  I shall explain.
          A good friend of mine went skiing in Utah a few weeks ago, fell and tumbled into a tree, broke all kinds of ribs and head bones, and smacked the daylights out of her right frontal lobe.  After weeks in the hospital, they finally transferred her to a rehab facility back here in California.
          So I went to visit her and guess what? First of all, she looked like a million bucks, and second of all: she was sharper and more focused than I was!  She was even heading home in a couple of days.
          I asked her what they could possibly do at the rehab place to help her.  She said they would come in and give her six words to remember, and then later ask her to recall the list. She ticked off five of the words right then, but she couldn’t remember the sixth.  I can remember one: marble.  Although I won’t swear to that.
          Good gravy—if I were in here they would never let me out!
          So I looked up the typical symptoms of someone with this injury.  They are often inattentive, have a hard time finding the word they want, cannot retain new information, talk persistently, exhibit ADD tendencies, have an intolerance of frustration, and have poor hand-to-eye coordination. Excuse me?  Is that not a detailed description of Joni Hilton? 
          So did I fall down at some point, bang my head, and nobody even noticed?  Or was I born without a right frontal lobe from the get-go?  I mean, I’ve never had my head x-rayed; I could have gerbils doing the hula in there!
          I’ll tell you this.  I am going to watch my step like a hawk, or I’ll wind up in that facility for life.  On the other hand, if I could look as rested and refreshed as my friend, it might be worth a visit.

Keep me from stumbling into permanent residence at the hospital by purchasing my books!  That way I’ll write more and stay safely at the computer desk.   

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

They're Baaaack!

          Be still my heart.  The sheep are back.  Rocklin has a surprising number of wetlands and meadows, the latter of which needs trimming annually.  And the other night St. Bob asked me to hop in the car for “a surprise.”
          Could it be a decadent new dessert cafĂ©?  A glorious sunset?  How about an incredible garden, a misspelled sign (I love those), or tickets to a brand new movie?
          It was something even better: a giant herd of sheep just one block away, baa-ing and meandering about.  It was evening, so this is the best shot I could get:
They only stay for a day or two before their owners move them to another juicy munching spot, so you have to enjoy them while you can.  Using sheep to trim grass is not a brand new concept: Woodrow Wilson had them trim the White House lawn during World War I.
          I told you here about my attempt at sheep shearing.  But despite that disaster, I love them to pieces, especially the baby lambs.  I grew  up watching ventriloquist Shari Lewis doing the voice for her puppet, Lamb Chop, and have been smitten ever since.
          So today I’m going to share 10 amazing facts about sheep that I’ll bet you didn’t know:
1.   Feta cheese, which we all love, comes from sheep’s milk.
2.   Sheep have gigantic, rectangular eyes that see 300 degrees, so they can see behind themselves without even turning their heads.  And you thought only owls could do that.
3.   About 5 years ago, a farmer in Scotland paid almost half a million dollars for a breeding ram.  I AM IN THE WRONG BUSINESS.
4.   Sheep are like elephants when it comes to memories, and can remember 50 people’s faces, as well as voices, for years.
5.   Sheep are almost as smart as pigs, and will self-medicate, eating the plants they need when they’re sick.
6.   There are 900 breeds of sheep around the world. (I wonder who counted them.)
7.   A pound of wool can make 10 miles of yarn.  Mankind has been spinning it since 3500 BC.
8.   A sheep on its back cannot get up, just like a turtle.  So if you see one on its back, give a helping hand and turn it over.  Talk about doing a good turn!
9.   Sheep don’t have top teeth, only bottom teeth.
10.               Sheep are highly social and even have best friends (see Number 8!)
And now you can share my excitement when you see a flock of sheep.  Especially if it’s lambing season, pull over and enjoy one of the cutest faces in the animal kingdom!
Be a lamb and order my books, too.  You can find them here.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Happy Pi Day!

          Do you realize what tomorrow is?  It’s Pie Day!  I mean Pi Day.  It will be March 14th, and since 3.14 is Pi, we must , by law, eat pie.  Hey, this could very well be the law—have you read every law book in your city?  There are all kinds of things in there—and better safe than sorry, I say.  Here's a strawberry-rhubarb pie I made:
          I even made little Pie Pops in the Youtube Mom video I posted yesterday.  They have tiny little Pi symbols on them. 
I suggest you make round pies, like this apple one of mine, since Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter:
But why split hairs?  Make them in heart or star shapes, if you wish.
          Pie of any kind is permissible (since I can’t find the law, I am composing my own), but if you want to make killer delicious, EASY Pie Pops, check out my short video here. This is the basic idea:
          Roll out a good, homemade pie crust (scroll down for a great recipe), then cut out circles with a cookie cutter or even a small drinking glass.  You want the circles to measure about 1 & ½ inches across. 
Place a tiny dab of cream cheese (sweetened with a pinch of powdered sugar if you like) on one of the circles.  Top with 2-3 blueberries.  Some delicious alternatives are bits of peach, apple & cinnamon, a smidge of jam, cherries, chocolate chips, or caramel. Or you could use lemon curd, a raspberry, WHATEVER. 
Place the end of a lollipop stick on next.  Now cover it with a matching circle, and press the edges together.  Crimp the edges with a fork, then brush with egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees.  (Or you can omit the sticks and just have teeny little hand-held pies.)
You will go gaga over these, I promise.  And, since it’s an unofficial holiday, you can go unofficially crazy—make tiny chicken pot pies.  Or make pizza ones containing a pinch of meat, some pizza sauce, and a small piece of mozzarella.  The possibilities are endless.  And now I have saved you from getting arrested by the Pi Police.  You’re welcome.

Be a Sweetie Pie and browse through my other videos here, as well—and be sure to tell your friends to subscribe!
Never-fail Pie Crust

1 & ½ Cups shortening
3 Cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
5 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. vinegar

With an electric mixer, beat shortening into flour and salt.  Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and add them all at once.  Beat until dough forms.  Wrap in plastic and chill.  Makes 2 crusts. This dough is easy to handle and rolls out without toughening.  Freezes well.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I Think That I Shall Never See...

          I love trees.  Don’t most of us?  They’re amazing—these towering beauties that give us shade, fruit, flowers, homes for birds and animals, wood, paper, even oxygen.  And I happen to live in Sacramento, which boasts the most trees, per capita, in the world-- second only to Paris (and guides at the Capitol point out that this is only because Paris annexed an entire forest).
          Autumn here is a dazzling spectacle of crimson, orange, and gold, but Spring is equally showy with blossoms of pink and white.  Here’s a shot I took yesterday, of a tree in my front yard:
          And this is one in my neighbor’s yard:
          Even driving down the street, you are flanked by billowy blossoms, and can’t help humming Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree, a favorite song of LDS kids everywhere.
          So I’m getting on my popcorn box.  Or soapbox.  And I am begging tree owners everywhere to learn how to prune them, or leave them alone.  I was in San Francisco last week and saw this mutilated tree:
          I shall utter three words I never like to say: Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe this is modern art, and these are tributes to Picasso.  Maybe someone there is allergic to actual branches.  Maybe they want to shoot a movie called "Nightmare on Elm."  Maybe they live with someone who has ADD, and they're tired of that person saying, "Look-- a squirrel!"
          Seriously, these mangled plants are to the tree world what corn dogs are to cuisine-- just wrong in every way.          
          You see them everywhere—trees that were topped off and whacked by someone with more energy than information.  All the branches are cut back to nubbins, then twigs sprout, trying to reach up and keep it alive.   
          Don King could pull off this look, but a tree?  C’mon.
          What self-respecting cat wants to climb a tree like this?  Where are birds to nest in Springtime?  And how can blossoms ever materialize on these poor scalped fellows?
          If you think your tree needs pruning, hire an arborist who actually knows how to trim branches to promote health and beauty.  Or, if you want to do it yourself, Google it. See how your particular tree needs to be pruned so it won’t look like it’s shaking an arthritic fist at the world.  You thin the branches; you don’t just attack it with a chain saw.  This isn’t a human head with hair that needs overall cutting.
          Hasty clipping can spoil your landscaping for years, and possibly invite disease, shortening your tree’s life.   I’ll even give you a link-- click here for why, when, and how to do it. If you do it at all. 
          Meanwhile, when was the last time you memorized a poem?  Might I suggest Trees, by Joyce Kilmer?  You can learn it quickly and then you’ll always have it.  And when you see a beauty like this, 
you’ll think of these words and smile:
I think that I shall never see       
A poem lovely as a tree.  
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest   
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;      
A tree that looks at God all day,         
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;           
A tree that may in summer wear          
A nest of robins in her hair;        
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;     
Who intimately lives with rain.   
Poems are made by fools like me,        
But only God can make a tree.

How about curling up under a Springtime tree and enjoying a good book?  Check out my latest novels here!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Can't Put My Finger on It

          Well, whaddaya know.  It turns out you can predicts a woman’s athletic ability just by looking at the length of her fingers.  Seriously, there are studies that prove this.
          “… the longer one’s ring finger relative to one’s index finger, the faster one can run,” says British psychologist John T. Manning, who predicted the outcome of several 100-meter races just by looking at the runners’ hands.
          I know, I know.  You’re studying your own fingers right now.  Is your ring finger as long—or even longer—than your pointer?  Then, according to scientists, you were likely exposed to more testosterone in the womb.     And if you’re a woman, you can run like the wind.  For men, the news is even better: They’ll be born with great hearts and vascular systems.
          Apparently this ratio is inherited, and doesn’t change during one’s lifetime.  So if you want all your children to be world class athletes, check out your girlfriend’s ring finger length.
Here’s a chart that tells you how to determine whether your ratio is low (good for sports) or high (good for holding still): 

          Now here’s a photo of my own hand:
          Oh, yes, Boys and Girls, what can we conclude from this? Simply what I’ve known all along—that despite trying, I will never win a gold medal in the Olympics, even the senior Senior Olympics, and sports will forever  exasperate me.  Additionally, I will collect stories of klutziness, sprains, and bruises as I bumble through life a good ten meters behind the more fingerly endowed.
          I’d stop right here and make several puns about having to hand it to  sprinters and marathoners, etc.  But I don’t have time for that—gotta run!

Athletic or not, you’ll love my books because there is literally something for everyone.  Check ‘em out here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Where am I From?

          I recently took a test you cannot fail.  And failed it.  It’s a test that shows where you grew up, based on your dialect.  At least in the United States.

          For example, how do you pronounce caramel—two syllables or one?  Is your aunt your ant or your awnt?  Do you wear tennis shoes or sneakers?  And what do you call a sweet, fizzy drink—pop, soda, a soft drink, or something else?
          I once blogged about how cool my husband is, for his different pronunciations of dawn and don.  I say them the same, but he’s from Louisiana, so he pronounces dawn with more of an aww in the middle.  As it should be. 
          However, it isn’t all about how you say the words, it’s about which word you choose.  The big cats who live in mountains?  Many folks would call them mountain lions or pumas.  I grew up calling them cougars.  
          I eat dinner, not supper.  I drive on the freeway, not the highway.  And I put frosting, not icing, on my cakes.
          I love the Southern “y’all,” for which there is no Western or Northern equivalent, but I don’t use it.  I just say “you.”  And those grassy areas in the middle of the street?  Medians.  What else could they be?
          As you take the test, you see a map of areas where people speak the way you do.  And all was going well, right up until the end when they reveal the very spot where you grew up.  Sure enough, St. Bob’s was so defined they practically pinpointed the very house in his home town of Lake Charles.
          Mine, however, said Seattle or Spokane, two places where I have never lived.  Northern California is as close as I’ve come. I've also lived in L.A., Utah, and Iowa. Now y’all need to take that test and see if you live next door to me.

And if you do, pop over for some pop.  Maybe the TV crew will be here taping another  YouTube Mom segment and you can help me make sub sandwiches.  I mean hoagies.  I mean grinders.  I mean heroes…