Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year, Y'all!

I love New Year’s Eve, because I usually spend time thinking about all the wonderful things that happened this year. (Yeah, I’m optimistic like that.)

So here is my top 16 list of happy moments in 2008 (there were so many; I couldn’t limit it to ten—or even fifteen):

1. Iwanski and I sitting on the balcony of our hotel room at the top of an Arkansas mountain…watching the fog finally clear away so that we can see the fantastic view.

2. My entire family showing up in great numbers for my Grandma’s 93rd birthday party…and my surprised mother managing to pull together a meal for all of us.

3. Finding out that I didn’t have cancer (the best news ever!).

4. Getting a new job that I like so much better than my old job.

5. Iwanski finally quitting his soul-sucking insurance job, after me asking him to quit about a hundred thousand times.

6. Hiking through numerous national and state parks and forests with Iwanski—and seeing a bald eagle in mid-flight at Tower Hill State Park.

7. Enjoying a yummy Hungarian meal (prepared by chef Buck) with good friends…and then enjoying crazy karaoke afterwards.

8. Telling people I was pregnant (in February)—even though I later miscarried, I wouldn’t trade that time for anything in the world. It was just magical to me.

9. My sister Mary, the nieciest niece Sfoofie, and her funny husband, brother, and sister coming down to Chi-town for a whirlwind tour of our city. (I still laugh at the slightly naughty version of “Yankee Doodle,” sung and acted out by Savannah.)

10. Obama being elected President. Whoo-hoo!

11. Calling up my friend Diane on election night, and telling her that the election night souvenir that I’d saved for her was a Care Bears beach ball that people were throwing around.

12. Enjoying a pre-Christmas karaoke party with Danny Wanny, his lovely wife, and hilarious son (that kid could really belt out the “Twist and Shout”!).

13. Driving up Iwanski’s Mom’s driveway on Christmas Eve, to see that she had the leg lamp from “A Christmas Story” in her living room window.

14. Iwanski shedding a tear at a poem that I wrote for him on his birthday.

15. My sister Sheri surprising me with a “Miss Healthypants” t-shirt on my birthday.

16. Every single moment that I spend with my wonderful husband.

And you know what? Even as I tried to limit this list to 10 (and then to 16), I kept thinking of more and more great moments from 2008. Even though there were some sad moments, as well, this really was a wonderful year.

I can only hope that 2009 is filled with as many joyful moments.

Here’s wishing you all the Happiest of New Years!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Homemade Grab Bag

This year, the Iwanski family decided to do a Christmas grab bag with homemade gifts.

Given the fact that I have virtually no talents to begin with, I had no idea what I was going to make. I had Iwanski’s sister, Donna’s, name—and I wanted to do something nice for her—but what to do, what to do? I’m not especially crafty, and I don’t do woodworking, sewing, photography, or cooking. So what on earth could I give her?

So I thought and thought. I guess I could write her something—perhaps a poem would be nice. But I couldn’t just give her a poem for Christmas! I envisioned her sister and other family members spending hours building beautiful wooden items or sewing soft, cozy blankets…and I was freaked out. What could I possibly give her?

Then I remembered something from long ago, tucked down deep inside of me—my inner baker! I remembered when I was a pre-teen, spending hours in the kitchen making cookies or my favorite brown sugar bumps (okay, so those don’t have to be baked, but still—they at least have to be mixed). I used to really like baking. And then I thought, there is something else unique about me as compared to Iwanski’s family. I’m from the land of cheese and beer and Friday fish fries! Somehow I had to think of how to incorporate my “Wisconsinness” into the gift. So what did I do? I decided to bake treats from Wisconsin, the cookies and bars that my Mom used to make when I was just a wee little thing.

It was a frigidly cold day, last Sunday, when I decided to do my baking. While temperatures outside climbed INTO the single digits (with 30-below wind chills), I donned an apron and began to whip up batches of my Mom’s chocolate chip cookies, lazy daisy bars, and farm cookies. The warmth from the oven caused our windows to fog up, as I whiled away the hours measuring ½ cups and tablespoons, and dropping batter by rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets.

And I loved it. I really did. I was so surprised at myself, and I silently thanked Donna for unknowingly helping me rediscover this part of myself that I had long since forgot about. And the cookies and bars themselves? Well, they certainly met with Iwanski’s approval, as he tasted them and said “You know, you can do this more often.” And they really did taste like the treats my Mom used to make. Yummy!

So long story short, I think Donna liked her treats, and the poem that I had written and framed was received well—except for the part where I got her wedding date wrong—doh! (Yes, I had asked someone to verify the date, but she had mistakenly given me the wrong one. I promised to send Donna a new copy of the poem with the correct date.)

And as for the gift I received, from Iwanski’s brother-in-law? Of course it involved some beautiful woodworking and sewing! Doh! But it was so very nice, I didn’t care. He (with a bit of help from his wife) gave me a nice shelf/coat rack with hooks, an extremely soft, warm fleece blanket that I love, and a “zen garden,” complete with a basket, sand, candles, a journal, and a CD that he had burned with songs specifically chosen for their “zen-like” qualities. It was all so wonderful and so “me”! What a great gift!

The other homemade gifts that were given were also wonderful and unique—just like the people that gave them. My favorite Christmas gift of all, though, was getting to spend time with these people who had given so generously of their time to create these one-of-a-kind gifts that will probably always be remembered.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all from the Iwanskis! May your holidays be merry and bright!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Best Gift Card Ever

‘Tis the season for gift cards—and I love getting gift cards. No matter what store it is from, you can be sure that I’ll find something to spend it on. Unless it’s from Uncle Salty’s House of Peanut Shells. No wait, even if it’s from Uncle Salty’s House of Peanut Shells. I could spread peanut shells all over our living room floor for Iwanski’s birthday to make it look like Wrigley Field.

Anyway, one time, I got the best gift card ever.

That Christmas, a friend of mine gave me a gift card for a coffee shop. I like coffee, so I was happy.

A week later, Iwanski and I were in the coffee shop and decided to use the gift card. The cashier rang up the cost, and it was $3.90. I handed her the gift card, confident that there was at least $5.00 on it. The cashier ran it through and said, “You owe 74 cents.”

“What?” I asked, dumbfounded. I looked at Iwanski, and we both started laughing.

“She gave you a gift card for three dollars and sixteen cents?” He exclaimed.

“I guess so!” I replied, handing the cashier the 74 cents. “Oh my God, that’s so funny!” I laughed some more. “I can’t believe she did that!”

Then Iwanski said, “Wait—3.16—isn’t that the Bible verse people always quote? John 3:16?”

“I’ve never heard of that before,” I replied. “What does that one say?”

“Something about God so loving the world, that he gave his only Son so that we might live forever, something like that,” said Iwanski.

“Well, I guess that’s a good thing,” I said. “But I don’t think she’s really all that Christian. I think she just gave me a half-used gift card.”

We both laughed some more and then enjoyed our re-gifted coffee drinks.

Friday, December 19, 2008

MHP Happy Day

I took the day off work today and am having a certified Miss Healthypants Happy Day.

First, I got to sleep in a bit. For those of you who don’t know, I REALLY like sleeping. I would sleep twelve hours every night if I could get away with it. On my days off, I usually roll out of bed around 11:30 or so.

But not this morning. Because this morning I had to wake up early enough for the all-important “getting to the lunch buffet on time.” So Iwanski woke me up at 10:30 a.m. (hey, it’s still better than having to get up at seven), and we left for the buffet at 11:30.

That’s another important part of a Miss Healthypants Happy Day. There must be some kind of lunch buffet involved. I loves me a buffet. (I know, really healthypants of me.) Anyway, today, Iwanski and I tried for the first time a Thai buffet that’s a few blocks from our apartment. The food was really good…but the only problem was that they seated us right smack dab next a couple of dudes. I didn’t like that because every time I got up to go to the buffet, I had to squeeze past them and pretty much had to stick my butt right in their faces. (Awkward!) Iwanski didn’t like that because he is somewhat of a shy person—which means that sitting less than a foot away from two complete strangers made him feel kind-of uncomfortable. Nope, I don’t think we’ll be going back there any time soon.

So when we finally broke away from the two dudes, we headed outside for a long walk in Chi-town. That’s part three of a MHP Happy Day—a long walk with Iwanski. Today’s walk included an exciting obstacle course where we had to figure out how to navigate various puddles of snow and slush that were at nearly every street corner. Lucky for me, I had bought boots a couple of months ago, so my feet stayed nice and dry. Unfortunately for Iwanski, he was wearing his $20 tennis shoes (he calls them sneakers) that he bought at Sears. No, those don’t keep out the water so much. So as Iwanski sloshed along in his sneakers, I danced along the sidewalk in my nice warm boots. Poor Iwanski. He really needs to buy him some of those.

So as you can guess, all of the crazy snow and ice that we’ve gotten lately had really started to melt today. Of course, there’s still plenty of it to go around. To illustrate, here’s a picture of me in Daley Plaza, hangin’ out with the snow. I’d say it’s a safe bet that we’ll still have a white Christmas.

After walking amongst the snow and slush for quite a while, Iwanski and I decided to stop in at Dunkin Donuts for a nice hot cup of coffee. (That’s part four of an MHP Happy Day—a good cup of coffee.) Iwanski and I sat by the window and watched the workers and shoppers of America pass by, while we sipped steaming coffee—regular ole’ coffee for Iwanski, and French Vanilla for me. Ahhh….

Now Iwanski and I have returned home and are doing some “internetting” (a bonus on an MHP Happy Day) and are getting ready for Buck to arrive later on for some drinks and a bit of Christmas partying.

Christmas partying with my two favorite dudes—that will seal the deal on this being one of the happiest MHP Happy Days of all time.

Wine and beer will be consumed, and later on I will fall asleep with visions of Thai buffets dancing in my head…and sleep in late tomorrow, hoping for yet another MHP Happy Day.

Decisions, Decisions...

You, my lovely blog readers, are so funny and creative!

Thank you for all the suggestions of what to call a big group of Santas. Unfortunately, all of your wonderful suggestions made it even harder for me to decide what to call them.

So let me just say this—thanks to all of you, I have many different names that I can call the Santas if I happen to see them again. Perhaps if they are nice, jolly Santas, I can call them a “clauset” or a “blitzen”—or maybe just “Santi.” But if they are mean, violent Santas, I can call them a “buttload” or a “dreamcrusher” of Santas—or even a “clausterf***.”

Maybe tonight I will see the Santas again and get to use one of those words—one can only hope!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ho ho ho ho ho ho ho ho........

What’s more fun than a group of 30 Santas walking down the street yelling “Ho ho ho!” and woo’ing?

Not much, methinks!

And so Iwanski and I today enjoyed the parade of Santas that we happened upon whilst out for our Saturday walk.

And where were all these Santas going?—you may ask. Why, into an Irish pub, of course! And I SO wanted to join them. Holiday cheer + beer = Fun!

However, Iwanski has a doctor’s appointment on Monday, so he’s cramming for the exam—which, of course, means no alcohol this weekend. And as a show of solidarity to him, I am also refraining from the booze. So no drunk Santas for me tonight—unless I happen to stumble upon a crazy homeless Santa weaving down the street. (And that is very possible.)

So as Iwanski and I left the Santas behind and meandered on home, I asked a question that I’d been pondering on for a couple of minutes: “What do you call a big group of Santas like that?” Iwanski and I thought of some names—but we couldn’t agree on any of them. So I ask you, dear blog reader, to please help us come up with this word. This is extremely important. The Santas need a name.

Here are the ones Iwanski and I came up with so far:

A “Merry” of Santas
A “Schtickle” of Santas
A “Pantload” of Santas
A “Pride” of Santas
A “Herd” of Santas
A “Jolly” of Santas
A “Plumber’s Crack” of Santas

Please vote for your number one choice—or make up your own! And don’t delay—the Santas are counting on you.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I have the sneezles today, just like Lorraine’s cat.

And so my thoughts are coming out like that today—sneezy little bursts. Here we go…

One of my favorite Christmas albums is the Partridge Family Christmas Album. Iwanski hates it. So that makes me like it even more. (I LOVE the song “My Christmas Card to You.”)

Is it bad that I’m looking forward to having kids someday, so that I can just send those really easy photo Christmas cards that people with kids send? I do try to be a bit creative in writing out my Christmas cards, but it does get a little old after a while—especially after about the 20th card…

Since my job has been crazy-busy lately and I need to lower my blood pressure, I am learning how to be Miss Peacefulpants by taking breaks at work. I have realized that a) to my surprise, other people take breaks every day! This is NORMAL. Going and going and going without stopping is actually not a good idea, b) I actually get more done when I take breaks, since I am calmer and more organized and centered, and c) It’s okay to not get everything done in one day. These are all good things! But it’s still a challenge for me to take breaks, as I’d rather be Miss Perfectpants and get it all done really, really fast. But I’d rather not be Miss Highbloodpressurepants, so there you go. I am learning how to take breaks.

Life is good. The weather is crappy-cold and cloudy, but I am warm inside my house, gazing at the beautiful lights on our Christmas tree while Iwanski watches Keith Olbermann joke with Allan Havey (a funny comedian) about Gov. Blagojevich’s hair. Ya’ gotta love living in Illinois.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

I Almost Forgot...

How could I forget? My sister Sheri got me the coolest Christmas present!—my very own Miss Healthypants salad dressing! Check it out:

Even the cork has my MHP “logo” on it!

Kudos to Sheri for getting such a fun (and appropriate!) gift!

Cookie Bash

Yesterday was the annual “Christmas Cookie Bash” at my parents’ house. It was quite cookie-riffic!

Here are the parental figures themselves.

Aren’t they just the cutest??

Iwanski and my brother-in-law Rick donned aprons for the baking and decorating event.

(This is the first and probably only time you’ll ever see Iwanski in an apron.)

Here's Iwanski frosting cookies with my sister Sheri.

(This is also the first and probably only time you’ll ever see Iwanski frosting cookies. But that’s mostly because we declared Iwanski a “frosting failure.” He had problems with the ratio of frosting to cookie. Miss Healthypants had to eventually take over his frosting duties.)

Even my little one-year-old niece Nora took part in the festivities (in the eating of the cookies, that is!).

At the end of the day, we had over 400 cookies…

We even decorated a special cookie for my sister Mary’s husband, Andy, who was unable to be there. Andy doesn’t like a bunch of “stuff” (decorating sugars) on the top of his cookie, and he hates red hots. So of course we had to decorate a special cookie for him, complete with the letter “A” written in red hots:

Later, my sister Mary informed us that Andy was very happy with his cookie.

And here are most of the cookie baking and decorating crew. (I’m the smiling cookie-decorator on the far right side.)

It was definitely a fun and successful “bash.”

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Iwanski Rule #17

Ah yes, yet another Iwanski rule has revealed itself.

Are you ready for Iwanski rule #17?

Are you sure??

OK, here it is:


You must not, under any circumstances, EVER use a gift bag to give a gift to someone. You must always use regular wrapping paper to wrap presents. Apparently if you attempt to use a gift bag, your head will explode or something.

I know it’s weird, but Iwanski is quite concerned that using a gift bag might signify that you didn’t put much thought into the present.

Miss Healthypants has attempted to thwart this rule in the past, saying things like, “But it’s a big basket full of bubble baths and lotions—can’t I just use a gift bag?” “No!” Iwanski responds, as if I just asked him if I could stab the cats. No, wait, he would probably like it if I stabbed the cats (since they’re always throwing up on the carpet and committing random acts of mischief). But you get the idea.

NO GIFT BAGS! Or else…you will incur the wrath of Iwanski.

Unless you’re Miss Healthypants, who ignores the Iwanski rules half the time, anyway. (Only she knows that the “wrath of Iwanski” merely consists of a smirk and a head shake.)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Miss Tetris-Pants

Hello, my name is Carla, and I am a Tetris addict. Not since Donkey Kong and Pacman has a game captivated me so much.

Yes, that’s right. Pacman and Tetris. I have the most boring taste in video games—not to mention that apparently I’m still stuck in the 80’s.

But there’s just something about Tetris that is so incredibly addictive.

I really don’t know why I like it so much, though. It’s a very spatial game, and I am not a very spatial person. I remember one time back in high school, we had to take these logic tests, some of which involved looking at a shape, turning it around 90 degrees in your head, and circling the shape that it should look like then. Now, I’d always gotten good grades and had considered myself to be a pretty smart person up to that point. But in that part of the test, I was absolutely clueless. I remember being mortified that the “class clown,” who spent virtually all his time drawing cars and airplanes, was finished with that section of the test before I was even halfway through. “Oh my God, I’m not that smart!” I realized. I panicked and started rushing through the questions, guessing on at least half of them. It was a very humbling moment for me.

Since then, I’ve realized that my lack of spatial intelligence explains why I’m terrible with directions and can get lost in my own house. I’m serious—last night I forgot where the bathroom was. Thank God I have Iwanski to guide me.

So anyway, with all my spatial ineptness, why on earth would I like a game that completely deals with spatial relationships between objects?

Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment. But the thing is, I’m pretty good at it. And the pretty, colorful shapes just beckon to me…

Several years ago, I had a brief fling with Tetris, but that ended when our old computer died. Now, I’ve once again began having an affair with Mr. Tetris. And it’s all Facebook’s fault.

Why, oh why did I have to look at the updates of my Facebook friends, only to discover a new, exciting version of Tetris—Tetris Sprint! No, this is not just regular old Tetris—it tests how quickly you can clear 40 lines of shapes. Then I discovered that our friend Boskey had scored a remarkably fast time of 2 minutes, 25 seconds. How on earth had he been able to do that so quickly? I was intrigued. And given my competitive nature, I had no choice. I had to try Tetris Sprint.

Two long hours later, I was able to get my time down to a low 2 minutes, 38 seconds! Whoo-hoo! But it still wasn’t as low as Boskey’s score…damn!

So back to the drawing board—er, computer…and on it went for hours and hours…

And still, after several (non-continuous) hours of game play and a few hours of carpal tunnel pain later, I have not been able to beat him.

Damn. It.

I really would like to win. But there’s one slight problem. Even when I’m not playing the game, I still can’t stop the shapes from going through my mind. And that, my friends, is just a wee bit annoying.

For example, last night, Iwanski and I were watching the movie “No Country for Old Men,” and although I was following the storyline (it kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time), in my mind’s eye, I still kept seeing squares and rectangles floating right on down into the movie. I seem to recall at one point a square fitting perfectly into the divot on Tommy Lee Jones’ cowboy hat.

Later, as I tried to fall asleep, I couldn’t get the shapes to stop. I tried watching t.v., listening to the radio, meditating, and praying. Nothing helped. Finally, I gave up and took a half a Xanax (which are normally reserved for airplane trips—but hell, I needed to do something). Yes, that’s right. I needed to take drugs to help break my addiction.

So this is it—I am officially breaking away from Tetris for at least the next few days. I have to—otherwise, those damn shapes will drive me crazy.

Hmm, I wonder if anyone has ever gone crazy from Tetris?

I’ll tell you something, I don’t want to be the first one to find out.