Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Special New Year’s Gift

My family got the best New Year’s present today!

My niece Stacy—who’s always been like a sister to me—had a beautiful baby girl at 12:31 AM today (at 12:31 on 12/31—don’t you love it?).

Little Nina Avery is the first child for Stacy and her husband Nabil, and from what I hear, they are absolutely thrilled. Apparently Stacy said, “She’s perfect!” And Nabil said, “She’s really ours!”

It’s just wonderful to see such a sweet, loving couple have a such a sweet little bundle. I am so happy for them!

Here are a couple of pictures for you to enjoy.

Here's the beautiful little girl in her Mommy's arms.

Here are the happy parents with little Nina.

Happy New Year, everyone! May the new year bring you many moments as precious as this.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Holiday Highlights

Christmas always goes by so fast, doesn’t it?

Well, here are some of the highlights of my Christmas (besides the aforementioned bacon jam miracle):

--Seeing the video on Facebook of my 2 ½-year-old niece Nora’s face lighting up as she opened her Christmas present from us (a play dough set complete with probably 10 different colors of play dough, and a bunch of play dough toys). (She pointed at the different play dough toys and said she wanted to play with “this and this and this.”)

--Singing Christmas carols with my good friend Jonathan and doing three-part harmony on “Silent Night” with him, Iwanski, and me.

--My coworker very generously giving me a pair of her winter boots that I had borrowed and loved. (I still can’t believe she gave them to me—that was so nice of her!)

--Arriving at my mother-in-law’s house on Christmas Eve to see the traditional “A Christmas Story” leg lamp lit up in her front room window.

--Enjoying some really good wine with Iwanski’s sister Anna, and chatting and telling jokes with her and his Mom while everyone else enjoyed their hundredth (or so) viewing of “A Christmas Story.”

--Cuddling with Iwanski by the fireplace until it was midnight and officially Christmas Day.

--Looking around Iwanski’s Mom’s kitchen and trying to find out exactly what time it was, only to find that she had four clocks in there, all set to a completely different time. That was hilarious!

--Iwanski pointing out that he wanted to find a book to read in his Mom’s house, but the only books he could find were a bunch of books about gambling and the book “Git-R-Done” by Larry the Cable Guy. (To be fair, she also had “My Life in France” by Julia Child, but she was in the middle of reading that one.)

--Taking presents from the back of Iwanski’s Mom’s van in the church parking lot while she was attending mass there. (They were our presents that we were bringing to his sister’s house, but if a cop came along right then, I’m not sure that he would have seen it that way.)

--Stuffing ourselves silly on awesome appetizers at Iwanski’s sister’s house. (I loves me some Spinach dip!)

--Playing “everything goes” ping pong with Iwanski’s nephews, where ping pong balls hit off walls or off the floor were still within play.

--The “re-used/re-gifted” gift exchange, where Iwanski’s Mom generously gave me a wallet full of half-used or unused gift cards. (It was fun finding out the values on all of them—and I’ve already spent the Sears and the Chili’s gift cards—yay!)

--The white elephant gift exchange/Yankee swap game, where we gave a bunch of kitchen items (including a omelet pan and a can of Cuban Black Beans) that we never used and a foot massager that I rarely used—and where I got a cute teapot & mug and Iwanski got a “how to speak Spanish” computer game, which he really wanted. It’s always enjoyable to find out that another person’s trash is indeed another person’s treasure.

--Singing Christmas songs with Iwanski’s sister while helping her in the kitchen (I stirred the gravy—that’s about the extent of my cooking “talent”).

--Stuffing ourselves silly on turkey, ham, stuffing, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pineapple souffle, cranberries, green beans and spaetzles, parsnips, corn, rolls, and other dishes that I can’t even think of right now.

--Listening to Iwanski’s uncle talk about his days as a cab driver in Chicago.

--Giving presents to and spending time with the lovely adults and children in the Iwanski family.

--Talking to my Daddy-o and Mamacita on the phone and sharing many of these Christmas stories with my Mamacita. (We sent them Christmas gifts and will be seeing them probably in January or February.)

--And last but not least…getting a second Snuggie! My friend Jonathan got me a leopard print one, which I also love. Here’s a picture of him and me in my two Snuggies.

I hope your Christmas was as merry and bright as mine was!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Holly, Jolly, Bacon-y Christmas

Recently, our good friend Lorraine wrote a post on Facebook about bacon jam.

What’s bacon jam, you ask?

Well, according to the website that Lorraine mentioned (, to make the “jam” (it sounds more like a chutney to me), they “take a big bunch of really really good bacon, and render it down...add a bunch of spices..onions, etc..and let it simmer for about 6 hours…give it a quick puree, and blast chill it…and you have bacon jam.”

Oh, my. I had to have some. More importantly, I had to get Iwanski some. It sounded right up his alley.

So I hopped on the website and ordered me up some bacon jam. Normally I would have tried to keep it a secret from Iwanski, so I could surprise him later, but I couldn’t wait. I told him about the order, and he and I both eagerly awaited the arrival of bacon-y goodness.

Five days later, it had arrived. Iwanski called me at work to tell me about it.

“Well, the bacon jam came today,” he said, “but the jar was already open, and it leaked all over the inside of the box. It smells awful.”

“Oh no!” I exclaimed. Apparently after a jar of bacon jam is opened, it has to be refrigerated. And after five days in the mail, that stuff was NASTY.

After he smelled that stench, I was afraid that Iwanski wouldn’t even want to try the fresh stuff. (And let’s face it—I wanted to try it as much as he did!) But undaunted, Iwanski e-mailed the company to request a replacement jar.

Later that night, I went out to dinner with my friends Jonathan and Liane. We exchanged Christmas presents and began opening them.

As I reached into the gift bag from Liane, I pulled out something wrapped in tissue paper.

I unwrapped it, and I gasped…


I was stunned and sat there with my eyes and mouth wide open. “Oh my gosh!” I said, with a huge smile on my face. “If you only knew—I have to tell you a story…” And I told her and Jonathan my tale of bacon jam woe. They were both amazed, too, at the crazy coincidence.

“I have to call my husband,” I said.

So I called Iwanski, and he was really surprised, too. “It’s a gift of the bacon magi!” he exclaimed.

“It’s a Christmas bacon miracle!” I declared.

I still can’t believe that happened. Oh, and the verdict on the bacon jam? I haven’t tried it yet, but Iwanski said that it was pretty good—maybe a little too sweet for his taste—but that means I’ll probably love it.

I think the Universe often delivers us these little miracles that we call “coincidences.” And I think God himself (or herself) had a huge laugh as he/she concocted this little bacon miracle.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Santa Hat Silliness

This past Thanksgiving, I made my whole family put on this little Santa hat and get their pictures taken. It was great fun for me--perhaps not as much fun for them...

Here's just one of the photos; check out the whole album by clicking on this link.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


I now have a pink Snuggie! Hooray!

My best girlfriend Diane got me a Snuggie for Christmas. She also got me a bunch of spiritual/metaphysical books (yay!) and a Walgreen’s refrigerator magnet (I may have mentioned this before, but I love Walgreen’s). Does Diane know me, or what? What perfect gifts for me!

Anyway, as I sit here typing this blog post, I am all snuggly-warm in my Snuggie—with my hands free to type or to take a drink of water or to pet my cat Autumn, who is hovering nearby.

I love my new Snuggie!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Apparently there's some weather going on in these here parts.

My family in Wisconsin have all been hunkered up under a Blizzard Warning which covers almost the entire state of Wisconsin. There are many school and business cancellations because the weather is just that rough.

Wow, I don't remember seeing that much snow since I was just a wee little girl. Back then, I remember sometimes we would get so much snow that my sister and I would hear the favorite words of every Midwestern kid--SNOW DAY!

To us, a snow day didn't just mean getting the day off school. It also usually meant bundling up and ACTUALLY GOING OUTSIDE in all that snow, trying to build snowmen and snow forts amidst the swirling flakefest.

And whenever I think about building snowmen, my thoughts always go to my brother Dave. Dave is about fifteen years older than me, and he and I have always been known by the rest of my siblings as “Mom’s babies.”

I’m Mom’s baby because I’m the youngest sibling (and that’s the ONLY reason—don’t let them tell you otherwise!). Dave is Mom’s baby for other reasons: one of them, according to my sister Mary, is that when my Mom was pregnant with him, she was in labor for three days (!) before she had him…so my siblings tease him that he didn’t want to leave his Mommy. Another reason is that he’s the youngest boy in my family (after him, my Mom had five daughters)…and yet another reason is that Dave was sick with asthma so often as a child (we’re talking full-blown, horrible, emergency room type asthma), that my Mom paid extra close attention to him (as well she should have). So I guess it must have seemed to the rest of the kids that he was “babied” by my Mom.

The thing about Dave is that he totally takes this “baby” label in stride and laughs about it with the rest of my siblings. And this is only one example of what a likeable, caring, funny guy he is. All of my siblings love him--and in fact, I don't know anyone who doesn't like him. He's just a really great guy.

Dave's goofy sense of humor is something that I’ve always loved about him. Even when I was very little, I can remember being really excited because he was coming home from college for the weekend, and he always took time to play with his baby sister and make her giggle a whole bunch. (I think this picture here shows that pretty well.)

One winter day when I was four years old, I remember that I was waiting for Dave to come home. We had just had one of the first snowfalls of the year, and it was the good “packing” snow, the kind that is most excellent for making a snowman. I kept watching the driveway, hoping to see Dave’s car drive up any minute. Finally, when he arrived, I ran out to greet him, and he scooped me up in a big hug.

“Dave, can you help me build a snowman?” I asked.

Now, I’m sure that there were probably 10,000 other things that a college kid would rather do than build a snowman with his baby sister—like watch sports on t.v. (Dave loves loves loves sports—especially the Packers (boo!) and the Cubs (yay!) )—but right away, Dave agreed to help me build a snowman.

And so there we were, big brother and little sister, spending time together on a winter afternoon, rolling balls of snow around in the yard to build a snowman body and head—and topping it off with a winter hat, scarf, stick arms, mittens, button eyes and nose, and a big yarn smile (not to mention what appears to be a button-down shirt made of snow, according to this picture).

Isn’t this an awesome snowman?

I’ll never forget that day, and not because it was such a great snowman (even though it was)—but because I got to spend the day with my big brother Dave, one of the coolest, most fun people I know.

Nowadays, Dave has five children of his own, and they are all as sweet, funny, and kindhearted as their Dad (and their Mom—my sister-in-law Mary is one of the most kind, caring people you could ever meet).

Dave is a wonderful Dad, just as he is a wonderful brother.

I’m glad that I get to be a "baby" of the family with such a great guy.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Zoo at Night

Wow, I seem to be posting a lot of pictures lately! But it would be impossible to tell ya’ll about my fun Saturday night without posting a few pictures. At least I actually took most of these myself this time! (But I’m by no means a great photographer, so please forgive any blurryness, etc.) Iwanski, however, is a great photographer--so his picture is the first one you'll see here.

Anyway, at around 5:00 on Saturday night, Iwanski and I went to see the Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo. This amazing display of Christmas lights has been going on for at least a few years now, but this is the first time that Iwanski and I had gone to see it. It was really spectacular! In addition to the thousands of Christmas lights, there were also a couple of synchronized music and light displays, which were really cool. Now I just have to figure out how to post a video that I took of one of those. (I’m also by no means technologically savvy.)

In the meantime, here is just a sample of the amazing Christmas light displays we saw that night.

First, an overall view, as we were walking into the zoo.

This dragon “breathed” fire (flashing lights)—it was pretty cool!

I liked the penguins. (This picture is also for my sister Mary, who loves penguins.)

And of course, I liked the cat! (And my reputation as the cat lady of the family continues…)

This last one was probably my favorite light display—I just loved the pink lights covering this tree—just beautiful!

It was a fun night that got us in the holiday spirit—I even finished writing out my Christmas cards this weekend. (That is way early for me!)

Now I just have to address them (groan)…I’m sure I’ll find a way to procrastinate on that part for a while. That shouldn’t be too hard to do. So what procrastination device should I employ tonight? Facebook or blogs? Hell, why not both?

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Miss Healthypants' Choke Hold

I thought you all would enjoy this picture of me choking Iwanski. I sure enjoyed it!

**Thanks, Sheri & Rick, for taking and sharing this silly picture!