Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Not a Creature was Stirring?

I don’t get why I have to have a rodent-themed Christmas. Last time I told you our new tradition was having a surgery-themed Christmas. But the longer tradition involves rats and mice.
Simon, our ninja cat, keeps bringing in live mice and then letting them go. Our son, Brandon, says cats do this when they think you have no hunting skills. They treat you like you’re their kittens and they need to train you.
I doubt very much that cats think anything through as thoroughly as this. I mean, what’s a cat’s IQ—10?
          So now we have a mouse hiding in a drawer in the laundry room. I can picture a little mouse real estate agent telling him the place shows dark, and the mouse grinning and saying, “Where do I sign?”
Obviously he hasn’t read T’was the Night Before Christmas. We’re trying to capture him, but mice are quick and sneaky.
You’d think this wouldn’t be that difficult. When our son, Richie, was a little boy he asked, “Why do owls come out at night?” I told him it was because mice come out at night. He said, “Then why do mice come out at night?” And we’re back to IQ again.
          Years ago a rat collapsed and died under our tree, trying to get to the water in the tree stand. Good heavens, right? 
          Then one year I was painting our windows with Christmassy themes and added a tiny little mouse, asleep in a wreath with his little stocking hung nearby. I continued this each year, and one year painted him just a bit too large.  “A Christmas Rat!” the kids squealed, thrilled with this tradition that I blogged about here.
          And now Tiffany, our daughter-in-law, has NAMED the latest mouse Reggie. The one we’re trying to capture and relocate in the nearest wilds. But if he’s named then he becomes a pet!
          I just don’t know. Maybe my own IQ is the real problem here.
You can come over and help me on Mouse Watch. When it’s not your shift you can read one of my books!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Ever Tried This Christmas Tradition?

          We all have holiday traditions, right? It seems mine is to have major medical procedures on them. My main cancer surgery was right before Thanksgiving last year, followed by another two surgeries right before Christmas. Then I started chemo on Valentine’s Day. I think radiation began on St. Bob’s birthday, and now I’m having reconstructive surgery right before Christmas again. I sure know how to get out of cooking a giant feast!
          However, as you read this I am now back from a lengthy hospital stay and am enjoying a whole new tradition: Christmas fireworks. At least that’s what I am anticipating as ALL of our wonderful grown children are with us (hasn’t happened in a long time!) and it’s up to them to cook. One is vegan, one is keto, one avoids glutin, one likes junk food and one hates to cook. Should be hilarious. (Plus varied political views which I have told them to keep to themselves but you know how that works.)
          I’m thinking I will pull up a nearby chair, sit there in my pain-med-induced stupor, and enjoy the entertainment.  

St. Bob has planned a wonderful day for them: Zip-lining, rock climbing, and a Via Ferrata rope challenge at the local Quarry Park Adventures. But I fully expect our plans to get rained out. Plus I looked at the website, saw the words “Free Fall,” and now I’m praying for snow. One Christmas hospital visit is enough, right?
Even though it’s Christmas Eve, you can order a sleigh-ful of my Christmas booklet, A Little Christmas Prayer. You can enjoy it throughout the season (hopefully without any injuries) and even stock up early, for next year.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Now Hair This

          Okay, the chemo hair is growing back in. Yes, it fell out and I looked like an eaglet. Or Golum. But now it’s growing back sassy and defiant. Like this is my fault and it’s blaming me.
          Granted, I had somewhat curly/wavy hair before.
          But now I have curls so tight it looks like hundreds of  tiny Slinkies are all over my head. 

Or sheep’s wool.

Seriously, I look like a cross between Sonic the Hedgehog

and Albert Einstein. Like, if they had a baby.
When it gets a little longer I think I may look like Bob Ross:
Who knows-- maybe artistic talents will be included. I still wear wigs, hats, and scarves but soon I’ll be braving the weather with nothing but my tight little curls to protect me. Notice they’re forming two horns? I swear this is just what those particular curls have decided on their own.
If only they could remake Napoleon Dynamite with a crazy Aunt Joni in it. Then everyone would know how he got those curls.
But you can keep your head warm by staying indoors. And while you’re there, read my Christmas book aloud to your family. See if you agree with many of my readers that this would make a wonderful little movie!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Say It Ain't So!

          For years I have been bragging about the Bear Lake Raspberries grown in northern Utah, where I grew up. There’s something about the 6,000 ft. elevation and the chilly climate that makes the plants store more sugar. And that creates the sweetest raspberries known to man. Who knows, maybe even the sweetest people—ha!
Everyone in the vicinity, which includes Southern Idaho (and yes, Napoleon Dynamite felt like a documentary of my childhood) would go to Bear Lake and pick them. Our moms would make jam and it was the sweetest, pinkest, most glorious jam on earth.
Years later as we experienced “store bought jam” or even fresh raspberries grown in other areas, we would grimace, and then bore everyone around us with tales of better berries. We became Raspberry Snobs. Here’s a Vacherin I made, topped with these sweet little gems:
And a cake of mine:
And a creme brulee I topped with them:
But then (cue the sound effect of a needle screeching across a vinyl record), a few years ago it came to a halt. A virus nearly wiped out the entire raspberry plant population there, and they had to tear everything out and start over. Which takes a few years. Some of the farmers gave up entirely.
It was a dark and stormy time. Actually dark and stormy would have been good for the berries. It began to look like authentic Bear Lake Berries would be gone for good.
Thankfully, there are a few hardy souls who are working to bring the industry back again. Pictures of the annual Raspberry Days show lots of happy families enjoying Raspberry Shakes, ice cream, and desserts. So add Bear Lake to your bucket list, and enjoy these juicy red nuggets before they disappear again.
Raspberry jam makes a wonderful hostess gift as you make the rounds this Christmas. But until you can be sure it contains authentic Bear Lake berries, give the next best thing: My latest book!  It’s seriously perfect for anyone of any age, and teaches the magic of gratitude. Find A Little Christmas Prayer on Amazon for just $3.49!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Can You Say This?

          I’ve never owned a racehorse, but if you’re a frequent Joniopolis visitor, you know that I’m crazy about horses.  You may also know that I can sometimes be a monkey.
          So I’ve decided that if ever I do own a racehorse, I’m going to give it a name that will bring me a bit of amusement.  Especially if it wins. Hence the win-win.
          I’ll saddle it, pun intended, with a name that will cause the track announcer (and any broadcasters who try to say the name) a bit of a challenge. Shouldn’t be too hard—just think of the toughest words to pronounce correctly.  Worcestershire, Didgeridoo, and Onomatopoeia come to mind, but I think we can do even better.
          Some friends of mine live in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Nobody except locals say it right. And just imagine, with the state name included, it would take so long to pronounce it that the race could be over.
          Inspissate, obstreperous, floccinaucinihilipilification, inchoate, viviparous, dicotyledonous—the world is teeming with great choices.
Wait—hold the presses! Why not be sponsored by a pharmaceutical company, and give the horse one of those crazy drug names that no one can get right?
          Here’s a good one. It comes from Gulliver’s Travels, where giants were called Brobdingnagians. Try to say that one three times.
          Which brings us to tongue twisters, and why not? You could have a horse named Peter-Piper-picked-a-peck-of-pickled-peppers.  I thought I’d look up the world’s toughest tongue twister and found this quote: “Pad kid poured curd pulled cod." A team of researchers from M.I.T. have dubbed this tongue twister the world's most difficult. "If anyone can say this (phrase) 10 times quickly, they get a prize," said Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel, an MIT psychologist.
          HOLD ON again. So that’s harder to say than Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel, the very woman running the contest?  She could get a racehorse, name it after herself, and achieve my exact goal.
          I tell you, the pieces are simply falling into place. Now I just need the dough to get a horse. And here’s where you come in. All you need to do is visit my website, buy my books, and then wait for the pennies to stack up. A perfect choice is my latest, a short Christmas story that costs just $3.49 on Amazon. It’s called A Little Christmas Prayer. Hint: Sometimes it takes a child to raise a village.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Know Any Cheapskates?

          Sure you do. You know me. Okay, I’m not the worst cheapskate ever, but I do try to use the very last of the toothpaste before I toss the tube. I tell myself I’m being thrifty and frugal—much nicer words—but I also get great satisfaction knowing that I re-use and repurpose bottles and boxes that most folks throw away, and even greater satisfaction when I find good deals that save beaucoup buckos.
          St. Bob and I are well matched. One time he started a dining club called Cheap Restaurants of All Kinds (Acronym: CROAK). Maybe I should start a penny-pinchers’ club where we get together and brag about bargains we’ve come across.
          Meanwhile, I decided to see where the term “cheapskate” originated. Turns out nobody really knows (or were they just too cheap to do a study?). It started popping up in the late 1800s, has nothing to do with skates, and generally means someone miserly and stingy.
          Well that’s entirely different. I’d be much more likely to splurge on a gift than on something for myself.  And, with Christmas approaching, we all try not to be like Scrooge.
          BUT… I do have an amazing suggestion for you as you scour the internet and stores for gift ideas. It’s a terrific present that only costs $3.49, less than the price of a greeting card! Perfect for everyone on your gift list. Yes, it’s my latest work, a short story about gratitude called ALittle Christmas Prayer, and it’s perfect for kids or grownups of any faith. Hint: Sometimes it takes a child to raise a village.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

10 Things You Didn't Know About Chocolate

          Yep, it’s that chocolatey time of year. Actually the entire year is chocolatey if think about it. There’s Halloween which we just had, then Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years' LOADED with goodies, then Valentine’s Day, then Easter, then Mother’s Day, weddings, birthdays, then chocolate ice cream all summer, and now we’re back at Halloween again.
          But did you know these 10 facts about chocolate?
1. When wanting to melt chocolate, most people use chocolate chips. But those were formulated not to melt, so they could maintain their shape when baked in cookies.
2. We've all heard that dark chocolate is heart-healthy, but I have inside info on this, from a friend of the man who led that study. Turns out they only tested dark chocolate. So milk chocolate is probably just as heart-healthy. Just not vegan.
3. Aztecs and Mayans used cacao beans as currency and yes, they had counterfeiters making cacao beans from clay. 
4. The earliest form of it was hot chocolate, and that stayed the case for hundreds of years. “Eating chocolate” came much later.
5. Africa is the main producer of cacao beans.
6. Hershey’s makes 70 million kisses a day (and so named because of the sound the machine makes).
7. White chocolate isn’t technically chocolate, but does contain cocoa butter. 8The chocolate industry makes over $75 billion in annual worldwide sales.
9.   The blood in Psycho's famous shower scene was actually chocolate syrup. 10.The Snickers candy bar was named after the Mars family’s beloved horse.
Now that I have you salivating for chocolate, there’s one more fact that will give you some willpower: It's believed that people who are allergic to chocolate are actually allergic to cockroaches, as around eight insect parts are typically found in a bar of chocolate, according to the Food and Drug Administration (Google it). Yikes!
Thankfully, no insect parts are in any of my books, which make marvelous Christmas gifts.  You can find them all here, and the most recent one, A Little Christmas Prayer, is a timeless short story about how one boy raised a village. Only $3.49— perfect for those little gifts you need to buy in bulk.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

What You Don’t Need to Get Me for Christmas

          Online shopping has changed the world. And whether you shop online or in brick-and-mortar stores, you’re probably doing more of it this time of year as we look for Christmas and Hannukah presents to give those we love.
And that means catalogs in your mailbox, ads on your screens, and marketing of all kinds urging you to buy, buy, buy.
But some gifts deserve a bye-bye. Here are several gifts you don’t need to give me for Christmas:
First, a Dog DNA test which costs $60-$130.  I cannot fathom feeling blessed by knowing my chihuahua-terrier mix is officially part chihuahua and part terrier.  People who care about those things usually have purebred dogs with pedigree papers.  The rest of us have mutts and the last thing we need to know is that they’re part Australian Shepherd and should be a whole lot smarter than they’re letting on.
And speaking of dogs, I also don’t need a Smart Dog Collar. First of all, that sounds like it’s for smart dogs and that lets Mickey out of the running entirely. But even if you realize this is a collar with GPS tracking, don’t you know where your dog is, already? Are people really leaving the doors open and giving their dogs run of the entire world?
I also don’t need unicorns made of particle board that you can burn in your fireplace, a blanket that looks like a tortilla so you can be a burrito, a gnome disguise for my blender, a skull butter dish, a birdhouse that looks like a football helmet, a shark costume for my cat, hot sauce guaranteed to induce a heart attack, or a sofa cover that looks like a giant Lego.
I know, I know, some of these gifts just cry to be purchased, but this year you can save untold sums of money by not getting me any of the above. Instead—and this will stay nicely inside anyone’s budget—you can buy a boatload of my new books (A Little Christmas Prayer) on Amazon for only $3.49 each! This heartwarming Christmas story about gratitude is perfect for kids or adults of any faith. Aren’t you glad you subscribe to this blog? Now your shopping is done!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Does Your Dog Do This?

          Most of us like dogs and agree that all dogs go to heaven; they have such trusting, sweet souls. But every dog seems to have a quirk of some kind.
          I was feeding the neighbors’ dog when they were away recently, and was told the dog had FOMO—Fear of Missing Out.  Apparently, even when they’re home, the dog cannot bear to be fed in a room away from the action, where everyone is gathered. She will race into the laundry room for her kibble, then bring mouthfuls back to eat in their company, glancing nervously from one person to another to make sure she isn’t missing anything.
          Mickey, our Chihuahua-Terrier mix, also has an acronym for her quirk: OTTJ--  Over The Top Jealousy. She cannot abide affection being shown to the cat and will intervene, nudging your hand up and away with her nose. She has even sat on guard duty at the doggie door, hoping to keep Simon outside.  

          Once I was dangling a string for the cat, then got busy with phone calls. When I turned around, there was Mickey with the string in her mouth. She doesn’t even like strings. She just didn’t want Simon to have it.
          But I guess dogs aren’t alone having initialed disorders. I asked a friend at church how she was doing and she said, “Fine. Which stands for Freaking out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional.”  Ah, yes, I know that one well.
Here’s another acronym I like: GAB, which means Get A Bargain. Okay, I made that up. But you can save a fortune purchasing my latest book—A Little Christmas Prayer—which costs less than a greeting card! Perfect for everyone.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Outdone Again!

          Honestly. Is this really a competition? Now St. Bob is sporting a little white bandage on the side of his nose.  We were tied at two cancers each, and this tips the scales in the Cancer Olympics and the score is now Bob 3, Joni 2.  Sheesh!
          Our comedian kids chimed in, of course. One texted, “How unimaginative. He couldn’t even come up with a cool or unique cancer? Lame.”
          Followed by another who texted, “Wow, so how many hole punches until the next one is free?”
          Indeed. You’d think we could qualify for a package deal of some kind.  Meanwhile, our hole punches are in full view. But we might start charging admission.
Even better, bury your own nose in a book. Have you seen my latest? It just came out, and it’s only $3.49. It’s a holiday story you can give to everyone on your gift list. Check out A Little Christmas Prayer.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

May I Please Be Excused?

          Yes, I got another jury summons.
          But this time it was at the other county courthouse, the one built in 1898, in Auburn.
We all checked in, then filed into the historic courtroom. And here began the TMI portion of the proceedings. The judge asked for people to share hardships if they wanted to be excused.  One by one—in front of everybody—jurors explained their desperate financial plights, their autism, their college class schedule, their divorced ex who won’t help pick up the kids.
“Is there anyone else who can do this for you?” the judge would ask.
One man explained that he had an upcoming surgery scheduled. The fellow next to me whispered, “Is there anyone else who can do this for you?” and we both had to stifle our laughter. 
One woman had several health issues to discuss.  “What if you have hemorrhoids or a communicable disease?” I whispered to my new comrade in comedy. “Do you have to tell everybody you've got this creepy goo that keeps coming out of your ears?" We thought of several other awkward excuses.
Surely there’s a better way to allow folks to explain their hardships than announcing it in front of a hundred people. And most excuses are probably legit. But there are also people who just want to get out of jury duty.
And that made me think about how St. Bob used to host and announce game shows. There, as well, you have a “pool” of contestants. But not one of them is worried about picking up kids, missing class, or having to reschedule a doctor’s appointment. They’re highly motivated to win money, so they find creative ways to make it work. Here he his, hosting and hugging happy contestants on NBC's Let's Make a Deal:
Maybe there should be a drawing among jurors who stay, and prizes awarded.  And I’m not talking about the “Rice-a-Roni, pantyhose, or GasX for bloating” that I heard Bob say so many times. I’m thinking, “You’ve won a BRAND NEW CAR!!” That might liven things up a bit, no?
Okay, it’s not a car, and it’s not free, but my latest book only costs $3.49 and makes a fantabulous gift for adults, kids, your hairdresser, teachers, really anyone on your gift list. Check out A Little Christmas Prayer on Amazon, right here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Up in Arms

          In Joniopolis there always seems to be both good news and bad news. Actually, if you scroll through these posts, I think you’ll see it’s mostly bad news, with occasional good news thrown in just to surprise me.
          This time the good news is that I got my port removed (no, I was not deported, you punsters). You may recall this weird little box that was placed in my chest. Nurses use them to access your veins and give you chemo, or to take out blood for lab tests.
          Only this time I was told not to use the arm on that side. No heavy lifting, especially.  But wait—I’m already under strict orders not to do heavy lifting with the other arm because of the surgeries on THAT side. So how do I carry my purse—in my teeth?
          What I need are minions. I can have them pour milk, make beds, lift laundry baskets, haul luggage if I’m traveling, even turn the pages of a book for me.
          Meanwhile, because we can’t stop there, I’m advised to engage in a bit of weight-lifting to build bone density. And how am I supposed to do this—with my feet? 
          It’s like being told to take medicine on a full stomach AND stop having a full stomach. Or to get rest and plenty of exercise. Or to stop worrying, at which point you worry that you’re still worrying.
          It reminds me of the old childhood joke that jellybeans are smart pills. Invariably the next line is, so Joe bought some and then complained that they didn’t make him any smarter. “See?” was the reply, “You’re getting smarter already.”
But you can lift a book, right? I recommend one of mine-- start with the lightest in weight, which also happens to be the newest: A Little Christmas Prayer. It’s perfect for anyone and costs less than a greeting card! (See all my books at jonihilton.com)

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Falling for it Again

          St. Bob earns that title daily.  The latest thing I’ve asked him to do, which surely no man can enjoy, is to lift seven heavy bins labeled “Halloween” or “Autumn” from their shelves, so I can put pumpkins and fall harvest displays around the house.

          As I was pawing through one of them for seasonal decorations I mumbled, “Hmm… this could be cute in the kitchen. Wait. Maybe I could mix the acorns and the little wooden apples in the same bowl.”  Then I said, “How do men put up with women?”
          Bob glanced over. “What?”
          “I said, ‘How do men put up with women?’”
          Now he smiled. “That’s how.”
          Yes, he nearly got hit in the head with a gourd.
Lucky that guy provides ongoing material. Speaking of material, see if you can see Bob’s inspiration in some of my novels. You can find them all right here--and be sure to order my latest, a brand new booklet called A Little Christmas Prayer. It costs less than a greeting card! Perfect for everybody on your gift list!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Football Fakery

          On a recent flight I happened to sit beside a coach who was on his way to two football games. “Texas A&M vs. Auburn, then Cowboys vs Dolphins,” he said. I tried to carry the conversation but finally admitted I know absolutely nothing about these teams or players. I told him that when my husband is watching and says, “That was a terrible call,” I shout, “What is the MATTER with him?” Or, if one team trades a good player away I notice his dismay and say, “Can you believe that? What were they THINKING?!”
I even shared my collection of ideas with this coach, for how to improve various sports, which I blogged about here. It includes the brilliant (my own critique) idea for soccer, which is to eliminate the goalies and thus raise the scores. We were laughing away (he’d had a couple of vodka tonics, so I can’t claim all the credit for his ebullient mood), but then he had an idea of his own.
He said I should tell my husband that I found a new hobby: Fantasy Football. And he would even help me design my team.  DONE! I couldn’t wait. But I knew it would have to be a text because St. Bob would never let me run out my phony rope if I called him.
Here’s my text: I started a new hobby. I’ve joined a Fantasy Football League. See what you think of my lineup: Quarterback Mahoney, hook up with Kelsey from KC, Gurley as running back, also Barclay. Beckham for wide receiver, Kittle from SF, Zuerlain as kicker and then use the Chicago defense. And it only cost me $100 cash to join.
          St. Bob texted right back: Who is this really?
          Later he said, “You don’t even know which end of the football to hold.”  I didn’t tell him that these objects should be re-named, since they really aren’t in the round shape of a ball.        

          Then today he said “Drew Brees has to have thumb surgery.” 
          “Who is that? Do we know him?”
          He just stared at me. “You don’t know who that is?” Turns out he plays for St. Bob’s favorite team, the Saints.
          “Well, that’s HORRIBLE!” I said, a performance that deserves an Oscar. “Brew Dreeze definitely needs to use his thumb if he’s playing football!”
          “Brew Dreeze?”  
          Yikes. I quickly corrected myself, then asked, “What part does he play?”
          “You don’t know he’s the quarterback?” St. Bob was almost apoplectic.
          Hey. I once painted our bedroom Saints Pants Gold to surprise Bob. I’d be surprised if any of those players have a bedroom like that. So if you ask me, that’s a home run hit.
You know all that down time in football? You could read an entire book of mine in one game’s down time. Find ‘em all right here.