Thursday, December 30, 2010

Iwanski Is Home!--Hooray!

And now the healing process begins...thank you all for your prayers and positive thoughts!!

I will post more as soon as I am feeling a little more energetic.

Happy New Year to all! :)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Quick Update to My Blog Buddies

My husband, my beloved Iwanski had a "mild" heart attack and ended up having a quadruple bypass surgery this morning.

It's been rough. It's been tiring. It's been scary.

But he's doing really well! They took out the breathing tube tonight (yay! You could tell Iwanski HATED that), and he is now resting comfortably in the ICU.

I am drained, exhausted, still a little freaked out, and deliriously happy. I thank God, all the prayers from my wonderful family and friends, and the talented and amazing surgeons, technicians, doctors, and nurses at Rush Hospital here in Chicago.

I am one lucky woman. God has blessed me by keeping my beloved here with me. It's the best Christmas present I could ever have hoped for.

And if ya'll are the praying type, please continue to send more prayers our way. I'm sure it's not a super-easy recovery, but he's on the mend, and the prayers and positive vibes can only help.

Merry Christmas to all!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wine, Stuffing, and Christmas Carols

On Friday night, Iwanski and I got together with our good friend Jonathan to sing Christmas carols and drink some wine/beer. (The al-keehol helps us sing better!) As usual, we had a great time and laughed a lot.

Before Jonathan came over, I told him that I had bought him a bottle of Riesling (one of his favorite kinds of wine). What he didn't know was that the bottle of Riesling was...

A huge bottle! (I found this at Walgreen's, my favorite store. It's the equivalent of two bottles of wine, in one. Jonathan liked it a lot, as you can see!)



Later, Jonathan gave me a case of Trader Joe's 2-Buck Chuck wine for Christmas--in assorted flavors. Boy, are we wine-o's, or what? But I do loves me some 2-Buck Chuck!

And since he has been cooking delectable Julia Child meals for me so often this past year, I gave him a new Julia Child'ish book called "As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto." He was sooo excited.

And then, I said to him, "Since you've been cooking for me all year...I baked for you!" And I came in from the kitchen with some of his favorites: White chocolate macadamia nut cookies, and two types of candy containing white chocolate. (He loves white chocolate--obviously!) He seemed tickled pink with all the yummies. Yay!

Oh, and how could I forget? Jonathan also brought Iwanski and me a HUGE pan of his "famous" corn bread/sausage/jalapeno stuffing, which he calls "Dixie Dressing." YUM! Immediately, Iwanski and I scooped generous portions into bowls and ate to our heart's content. Now, mind you, I am not generally a fan of stuffing--but this stuff is just sooo good! (And of course, incredibly healthy. Anything cooked with two pounds of sausage and lots of butter has to be healthy, right?)

Later, post-stuffing (and after some tasty spirits), we sang several of the traditional Christmas carols, and did our best to sing in three-part harmony.

Happy sigh...good times with loved ones...it's what the holidays are all about.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Miss Cheddarpants

It's official. I can't escape it. I was born a Cheesehead, and a part of me will always be a Cheesehead.

Now my sister and brother-in-law have reinforced that fact by sending me, for Christmas...

CHEESE!



Of course, I am tickled pink. As I have previously-mentioned, instead of a sweet tooth, I have a cheese tooth. And now my cheese tooth will be satisifed.

So far, Iwanski and I have sampled the string cheese and chocolate cheese fudge...both were met with glowing reviews.

Hooray for cheese!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Forgetful St. Nick

Crap! It’s St. Nick’s Day tomorrow!

I’m really falling behind in my Miss Santapants duties this year.

Here I thought Iwanski and I had had a very productive, Christmasey type of weekend. This weekend, we put up the Christmas tree (sans ornaments), watched the 1938 version of a Christmas Carol, perused a book of historic Chicago Christmas photos together, walked through the Christkindelmart in Chicago’s Daley Plaza, and bought 15 Christmas presents! I thought we had done pretty well.

And then my niece posted on Facebook that it’s St. Nick’s Day tomorrow.

Crap.

Every year at this time, even though we haven’t been blessed with children yet, I like to continue the St. Nick’s tradition from my childhood (of course, nowadays I play St. Nick, rather than being visited by him), and I make a special trip to the store to load up on various candies and beef jerkys (Iwanski’s favorite). Then, in the middle of the night on the 6th, I sneak into the living room and fill Iwanski’s and my stockings with M & M’s and Butterfingers and Milky Ways and jerkys…and then excitedly wait for Iwanski to notice the stockings bulging with their loot in the morning.

And of course, he never notices, and then I have to point it out to him in some very obvious way, like saying “Hey, what’s that in your stocking?” And then watch him laugh as he looks over at it.

“You’re so nice,” he usually says. “I always forget about St. Nick’s Day.”

But now he’s seen it on Facebook, so he remembers. And I totally forgot about it. I did not buy M & M’s or Butterfingers or Milky Ways or beef jerkys.

Damn. Some St. Nick I turned out to be!

And then, as I was starting to write this blog post, Iwanski reminded me for like the 5th time this weekend, “We still have to put the ornaments on the tree.”

Crap! That, too?

Well, I’m comforted—if only slightly—by the fact that we do have two stuffed “animals” currently sitting in the tree, that I had placed there a couple of days ago when I was in a silly mood: Curious George and Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo. That’s right, all that’s on our tree right now is a monkey and a turd. Awesome.

And as far as St. Nick’s goes, Iwanski is on a super healthy eating kick lately, so all that candy would be too tempting for him, anyway. Even if he didn’t eat it, I would then be forced to eat it, and well, you know that old song about “Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat?” Well, I would then effectively become “the goose.” I certainly don’t want that.

I suppose I could stuff his stocking with other more healthy treats, but no one wants a stocking full of apples, carrots, and cooked cabbage.

Instead, maybe I will make some brownies tonight. I mean, one brownie now and then won’t hurt anyone, right?

The trick is not to eat all of the brownies in one sitting. I guess I could only give him one brownie at a time, and hide the others somewhere else in the house.

After all, nothing says Christmas like hiding food from your loved ones.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tuning Up for the Holidays

Every year around this time, Iwanski and I talk about how we would like to find a group that goes Christmas caroling around the city. And yet, somehow, every year, the holidays slip away without us ever achieving our dream of singing to perfect strangers while they stand there politely, thinking “How long do I have to stand here smiling while these people sing this damn song?”

But we do have one Christmas music tradition that we will be honoring once again this year: the annual Christmas music singalong with our good friend Jonathan. We always have fun, laugh a lot, and sometimes sound really good (sometimes not!), during our various attempts to do three-part harmony to Silent Night, Away in A Manger, and Angels We Have Heard on High.

This year, I think I’m gonna try to convince Iwanski & Jonathan to try to harmonize with me to the song “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” Nah, Iwanski would never do that. He HATES that song, for some reason. (So when it comes on the radio, I usually turn it up extra loud and sing along at the top of my lungs. Muhahahhahaha…)

I, on the other hand, like pretty much every Christmas song—except for maybe that stupid “Santa Baby” song. Ugh! They overplay that song like crazy during the holidays—and I find it annoying as hell. “Come and trim my Christmas tree with some decorations bought at Tiffany's”?? Gimme a break!

But other than that, I love Christmas music of all kinds. I grew up in a very musical family, and for many years when I was growing up, we would all gather around the piano and sing Christmas songs together. It was very Norman Rockwell’ish.

When I was little, some of those songs would make me laugh and giggle and squeal with delight. Other songs would make me cry. Like Silent Night. When I was really little, I could hardly ever listen to Silent Night without bawling my eyes out. Sometimes I still get a little teary-eyed when I hear that song.

But the song that I loved the most as a little one was always Jingle Bells. Only I didn’t call it Jingle Bells. According to my older siblings (even though I don’t remember this), I would always call it “Gingha-ho Funny!”

Why Gingha-ho Funny? I have absolutely no idea. But it makes me laugh to think of my wee little self calling it that.

A couple of days ago on Facebook, my sister Sheri’s status told about my little 3-year-old niecey Nora Lu’s favorite Christmas song. Sheri wrote:

Nora's favorite song EVER! We've been playing/singing/dancing to "Jingle Bells" nearly every day for over a year. Last summer, her daycare teachers laughed over her continual request that they play the song during "music time."

Now, Nora Lu loves her Aunt Healthypants, but she’s extremely fond of my husband. Whenever we are coming to visit, she’s always more excited to see—as she calls him—“Jahhhhhhn”—than to see her Auntie. Iwanski and Nora Lu just have a special connection (which I have to admit, is adorable).

So anyway, I was tickled pink to hear that little Nora Lu shares at least something with her Auntie Carla, in that she loves “Ginga-ho Funny,” too.

Nora Lu striking a pose

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Surprises

I shouldn’t be surprised, really. Thanksgiving dinner with my family never fails to disappoint, neither in deliciousness nor in laughter.

I love that I come from a family that laughs easily and often…not to mention that knows how to cook!

On the menu were many tasty eats, including turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries, corn, green bean casserole, cornbread stuffing, cheesy hash-brown potatoes, and other delicious items…including five pies! My sister Mary got a little carried away when baking and ended up making pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake pie, chocolate turtle pie, apple pie, and apple pie with crumb topping. YUMMY!

The plethora of pies soon led my sister Sheri to declare the holiday “Cinco de Pie-o!” We all had a good laugh over that one. (Here are pictures of the pies, doing their pie thing—I didn’t think to take the picture until after my family had already enjoyed several pieces!)



But before we got to the pie, there were several other Thanksgiving tasties to partake of. And since there were something like 28 of us present at the dinner, my parents had set up a buffet station where we soon lined up to get our fill of Thanksgiving tasties. As Iwanski and I were standing and waiting in line for our turn, I said, “I feel like I’m in line for communion at church.”*

Then Iwanski said, “Body of turkey…”

To which I replied “Yum yum” (in the same tone as the Amen given when receiving Communion at church).

My sister Bonnie had a good laugh over that one.

Then, as I started piling my plate with the Turkey Day goodies, I made a split-second decision. For the first time in SEVERAL years, I was going to try the mashed potatoes.

Now mind you, this is a big deal for me. It’s a widely-known fact in my family that I have hated mashed potatoes, ever since my Dad forced me to try them when I was a baby. I’ve been told that I said to my Dad, “If you make me eat them, I’ll throw up”—and then after he fed them to me, I actually threw up right there at the dinner table—but I don’t remember that part. All I know is, both the texture and the “blah” taste of mashed potatoes have always triggered my gag reflex.

So what prompted me to try them this time? Well, my Mom had shared with me the recipe for this year’s mashed potatoes, which included my favorite food of all time—cream cheese.

I have a really hard time resisting anything with cream cheese—or any kind of cheese—in it. In fact, I told Iwanski this weekend that instead of a sweet tooth, I have a “cheese tooth.” (To which he replied, “You have a whole mouth full of cheese teeth.”) And you know what?—he’s so right.

So I tried the mashed potatoes…and whatta you know, I didn’t throw up! On the contrary, I really liked them…which prompted me to declare loudly:

“I like these mashed potatoes!”

Immediately, one of my sisters called for everyone’s attention. As everyone suddenly became silent, she announced, “Did everyone hear that? Carla actually said she likes mashed potatoes!”

Several people cheered and laughed. I guess there’s a first time for everything.

In addition to the potatoes and all the other goodies previously mentioned, my Mom also made these little “turkey cupcakes,” which I thought were really cute.



I especially like the way they’re “looking up at the camera” in this picture. To me, they look a little confused.

Unfortunately, many of their candy corn “body parts” were falling off of them, so Iwanski started calling them “leprosy turkeys.”

My brother-in-law Rick said that they were “molting.”

The whole thing just made me laugh.

Later, I got a silly idea in my head. Some of you may remember last year, when I decided to take a picture of each of my family members wearing a tiny Santa hat. Well, a couple of months ago, my sister Cindy broke her right leg and ankle (and sprained her other ankle—poor girl!). So she’s got a cast on her right leg and foot. And so suddenly I decided that I needed to take a picture of her foot with the little Santa hat on it. So that’s exactly what I did.

Here’s Cindy with the Santa hat on her foot.



And here’s a close-up of her “Santa foot.”



We all got a good laugh out of that one.

I’m so grateful and happy that I’m from a family that shares my same silly sense of humor.



*If you don’t understand this joke, ask a Catholic to explain it to you. :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hilarity with the Iwanskis

I am a very happy camper right now.

This past weekend was just wonderful, and I’m excited about the upcoming holiday, as well. We’re traveling up to ‘Scansin for Turkey Day with my family, and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone and soaking up the loud craziness that is a Fochs family holiday.

This past Saturday, I woke up early and went to a free yoga class at the local Lululemon store (a crazy-expensive athletic clothing store that can certainly afford to offer a free weekly yoga class). The instructor this week was from the Chicago School of Hot Yoga, and it was fantabulous. Halfway through the class, my heart was pounding, and I felt sweat dripping from my forehead onto my yoga mat. Now that’s what I call a good class!

After class, I high-tailed it home (with a quick stop for some Healthypants items at the grocery store), jumped in the shower, and then hopped on a train bound for Oak Lawn (the Southwest suburb where Iwanski grew up). We arrived at my mother-in-law’s house at around 2 PM or so and joined Iwanski’s family for a yum-tastic birthday celebration and dinner, commemorating the November birthdays of Iwanski, his sister Anna, and his brother-in-law Tony. There were lots of Miss Healthypants favorites at the dinner, including sweet potatoes, creamed spinach, and 7-layer salad (mmmm…7-layer salad…). And then there was pie…mmmm…pie…. Iwanski’s family really knows how to do dessert, and there were four different desserts to choose from: Pumpkin pie, some kind-of chocolatey turtle pie, blueberry pie, and chocolate cake. (I myself opted for a slice of the turtle pie and a slice of warm blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream…oh my Lord, I think that is my favorite dessert ever!)

But the absolute best part of the evening was when we were all sitting around after the birthday gift opening, and Iwanski’s 10-year-old nephew Jarun started talking about possible nicknames for himself.

“Some of the kids at school call me Jare-Bear,” he remarked. “I’m not sure if that’s good or not. How about Care Bear?”

“No, trust me Jarun, you do not want people to call you Care Bear,” Iwanski replied.

“How about Jayr-onimo?” He asked. We all giggled.

“Or how about just Jayr, like Cher?” He was on a roll now.

This went on for a good 15 minutes before he said, “How about just Jarun Seinfeld?”

His 16-year-old brother T.J. snorted. “Geez, Jarun, then you might as well be Jarlie Sheen. Or Jadonna. Or Jraiser Crane. Or…..Jon Cryer.”

We all cracked up. “Or……Jon Cryer.” T.J. delivered that line so well; it was hilarious.

Then Jarun came up with his best/worst one of the night. “How about Jarun Lube (like Jiffy Lube)?”

We were all laughing our asses off. “No, no, no…” T.J. laughed. “You don’t want people to call you Jarun Lube!”

“I think we’re done with this now,” his Mom added.

I was laughing so hard that tears were rolling down my cheeks. It was one of those simply hilarious moments.

Everyone in Iwanski’s family has a great sense of humor, and I’m so grateful for that. They are also all kind and generous people. I’m telling you, when it comes to in-laws, I really hit the jackpot.

Now, very soon, Iwanski and I will be off to see my crazy, fun family. I’m sure I’ll come back to Chi-town with many more funny family memories.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Marble Rye and Cinnamon Babka, But How About Brownies?

Iwanski and I have just spent the past twenty minutes naming food and drink items that are mentioned in the show “Seinfeld.”

Why are we doing this, you ask?

Because it’s fun.

At least to us it is.

It all started tonight after we watched the Seinfeld episode entitled “The Pez Dispenser,” a hilarious episode where Jerry puts a Tweety Bird Pez dispenser on Elaine’s leg during George’s girlfriend’s serious piano recital. Well, of course, Elaine starts laughing her ass off in the middle of the recital, which brings about many fun plot twists. And all because of Pez.

After watching it, Iwanski remarked, “Food really plays a big role in Seinfeld episodes.” I agreed, and then pondered aloud, “I wonder if they ever mention brownies on Seinfeld?”

So just for fun, we started naming all the food items we could think of that are in Seinfeld episodes…which was a surprising number of them—probably like a hundred or more.

But still no brownies.

Then Iwanski had a thought, “Wait, what about the episode where Elaine makes something in that Easy Bake Oven? Didn’t she make brownies?”

Immediately, I jumped on the interwebs and Googled it. But alas, it was not to be. Elaine made cupcakes in the Easy Bake Oven (from batter that "is like, 30 years old"), not brownies. Damn.

But apparently (according to many links on Google), Jerry Seinfeld’s wife has this amazing brownie recipe that has—get this—spinach and carrots in it. Who knew? Sounds strange, but I saw lots of positive reviews of the recipe online.

So now I might have to make the brownies. Since we can’t figure out a Seinfeld episode with brownies in it, Mrs. Seinfeld’s brownies will have to be our consolation prize.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Flying and Stumbling

Recently, I was tagged in a meme on Facebook called “15 Scribblers.”

Here were the rules:

Don't take too long to think about it. List fifteen authors (poets included) who've influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.

Well, I thought, what the heck, I can do that.

But after listing like six authors, I thought, “What the hell do I read besides blogs these days?” It turns out, not much.

Actually, it’s not that I don’t read books—it’s just that I rarely read the same author twice (with only a few exceptions). So to name my “favorite authors” seems like a bit of a stretch when I’ve only read one book by most of my “favorite” authors. It would probably be easier to just name my favorite books.

So then I started wondering…what was my favorite book was when I was a kid? And what has my favorite book been as an adult (so far)? And what do my “favorites” reveal about who I am?

My childhood choice for favorite book was surprisingly easy to think of. To be sure, I had many favorites—the Little House books and the Anne of Green Gables books, to name just a few. But my absolute favorite book as a kid—and one that I still own and even still re-read on occasion—is a book called “No Flying in the House” by Betty Brock. (I think it’s one of my sister Sheri’s favorite childhood books, too.)



Why was it my favorite? Well, first of all, what a great title, right? “No Flying in the House.” Doesn’t that title just get your childhood imagination going?

And then you have a sweet blonde-haired little girl named Annabel as your main character, a tiny, intelligent talking dog named Gloria that accompanies her wherever she goes and takes care of her, a kindly old woman who lives by herself and allows Annabel and Gloria to stay with her, and a miniature gold cat toy with emerald eyes who comes to life on occasion and tells Annabel that she’s really a fairy and can fly…and you have all the ingredients for a magical story.

When I was eight years old, I was enthralled with this book. Heck, I still am! The mystery of Annabel and where she came from and why she has a talking dog and why a mean-spirited toy cat keeps coming to life and telling her she’s a fairy…well, it’s just such a fun, magical story. And when I was little, I couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than being able to fly around the house. What fun!

So I guess what my childhood favorite book reveals about me is that I love a great story—especially one involving mystery and magic. Even now, I love to hear stories about amazing “coincidences”—which I like to think of as life’s little miracles. I still like to believe that magic exists and that magical moments can happen in everyday life.

As for my favorite book as an adult, I think it has to be the book “Stumbling Toward Enlightenment” by Geri Larkin. I love this book and have read it at least a half a dozen times. In this book, the author tells the delightful story of her growth from a stressed out, harried, unhappy businesswoman with an extremely annoying eye twitch that won’t go away…to a calm, happy, kind Buddhist meditator…but not without many “stumbles” along the way. What I love about her story is that she’s certainly not perfect—and she struggles with the exact same emotions and ego that we all do—but she persists, in spite of her very human imperfections, to try to be a kinder, calmer, happier person. And I very much admire that.



I also love her story because it’s so very funny at times—so funny that I’ve laughed aloud at several points in the book. My favorite story that she tells is about a time when she is invited on a cross-country ski weekend with some friends in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When she is packing for the trip, she thinks to herself that since she doesn’t know these people very well, she probably should steer clear of any topic involving Buddhism or religion or meditation. What she doesn’t think of is packing her swimsuit. (Who thinks about packing a swimsuit when you’re heading for a ski trip?)

So later that night, her friends ask her to join them in the hot tub of the hotel they’re staying at. Instead of just admitting that she forgot to bring her swimsuit, she goes to the front desk of the hotel to ask if they have any for sale. Well, all they have are these plastic-coated paper bathing suits—so she thinks what the heck, I’ll try one. OK…you might be starting to get the picture. First of all, with the paper swimsuit on, she says she looks like “a Chinese lantern in human form.” Then, once she sits down in the hot tub and starts gossiping with her friends, wouldn’t you know it? The suit starts deteriorating. So when she stands up later to get up out of the hot tub, one friend pulls her down and whispers “Your butt’s gone.” Sure enough, she has no more backside to her swimsuit. It’s completely gone. So she makes everyone look away from her while she backs out of the hot tub and runs back to her hotel room.

The lesson of this hilarious experience? She could have asked one of her friends for help instead of trying to figure it out on her own, but her ego and her desire to be liked by her friends gave her a very embarrassing moment instead. Of course, it also gave her a very funny story to tell, but the point is, sometimes our ego gets in the way of our better judgment.

So I guess my choice for my favorite book as an adult also reveals that I love a good story—especially one told with lots of humor—and especially one where someone becomes a better person—albeit with some struggles along the way. This is the same reason that I love the shows “Supernanny” and “The Dog Whisperer”—because no matter how much the parents (or dog owners) struggle along the way, there is always a happy ending…or should I say “a happy work in progress”?

That is essentially my view of life—it’s a happy work in progress, and even though we sometimes struggle, there are still so many beautiful—and magical—moments of life that keep us going.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Happy Birthday to My Favorite!!

Happy Birthday to my very favorite…the best husband a girl could ever ask for…the one who makes me laugh every single day…

The guy that I affectionately refer to as “Iwanski.”

I love you so much, honey! I hope that you have the happiest birthday ever.

Monday, November 8, 2010

They’ve Stuck With Me

The other day I was looking around my living room, and I started wondering…

What is the one object in my home (besides a photo album) that I have owned for longer than any other possession?

After thinking about it for a few minutes, I realized that for me, it’s my grade-school sticker album!



Sometimes I can’t believe that I’ve kept this thing. Like so many of my fellow female classmates, I was REALLY into stickers for a while. It was one of the big fads of the early 80’s. I actually had two sticker albums, both of which I dug out of an old box. And sitting here tonight, looking them over with Iwanski, was a fun trip down memory lane…

These “Wacky Packages” stickers in the middle of this page were some of my favorite stickers. I still laugh at the description on the bottle of “Drowny”—“Makes enough suds to flood the Empire State Building…You’ll never concentrate again.” Tee hee!



I really got into the “scratch & sniff” stickers for a while. And surprisingly, I tried scratching some of them tonight, and some of them still have a smell! My favorite “smelly stickers” were always banana and watermelon. (Can you tell? They look a little worse for the wear.)



I was not really that into the Cubs or Mr. T, but Iwanski said that I had these stickers because somehow, I knew I’d meet him someday. (Iwanski pities the fool who don’t like the Cubs or Mr. T.)



My sister Holly went to Germany when she was in high school (as a foreign exchange student), and she brought me back these stickers. I remember being SO excited to have German stickers. (By the way, the literal translation of “Wir fahren wieder Rad” is “We drive again wheel.” German is a funny language!)



And then there was my unicorn phase…for some reason, I was really into unicorns for a while. I had a huge collection of them…I wonder whatever happened to all those unicorns? Well, I know what happened to the stickers at least!



So there you go…a glimpse into Miss Healthypants’ younger years.

So how about you? What is the one object in your home (besides a photo album) that you’ve owned for longer than any other possession?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Wooo! Friday!

FRIDAY

5:00 PM – Shut down my work computer and practically clicked my heels as I exited the building.

5:30 PM - Met some coworkers/friends in the bar at a Chinese restaurant and ordered a beer.

6:00 PM – Tried sake for the first time. Decided that I like sake, but not enough to drink it very often.

6:30 PM – Ordered another beer.

7:00 PM – Was presented with a menu full of very delicious-sounding Chinese food.

7:05 PM – Was asked if I like “Dynamite Shrimp.” Replied, “Yes.” (Even though I had no idea what Dynamite Shrimp was.)

7:20 PM – Enjoyed Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Salt and Pepper Prawns, Vegetarian Fried Rice, and of course, Dynamite Shrimp. (It was pretty good, but not quite as dynamite as I had hoped it would be.)

7:45 PM – Ordered another beer, enjoyed another glass of sake.

8:00 PM – Began preaching about the benefits of yoga to a female coworker with back problems.

8:15 PM - Apologized to my coworker about being a yoga missionary.

9:00 PM – Ordered another beer.

10:30 PM – Feeling pretty drunk. Was surprised and a little saddened to see several coworkers/friends leave to go home. Was also surprised to see that it was already 10:30 PM.

11:00 PM – Walked to a nearby karaoke bar with the two friends that were still up for partying.

11:15 PM – Ordered another beer.

11:30 PM - Ate sub-par nachos. Wondered how they had the nerve to call them nachos when the cheese wasn’t even melted.

12:00 AM – Enjoyed my friend Jonathan singing “I Think I Love You” to a lively crowd.

12:15 AM –Had fun singing “I Love This Bar” to the still-lively crowd. Thought I sounded pretty good.

12:30 AM – Joined the crowd in crooning “It Must Have Been Love” along with another karaoke singer.

1:00 AM – Left the bar, said goodbye to one friend, and stopped at 7-Eleven with Jonathan.

1:10 AM - Left the 7-Eleven with peanut butter cookies and a big can of Bud Light for myself, and a giant beef stick for Iwanski.

1:15 AM – Hung out at Jonathan’s apartment and enjoyed fun conversation – as well as popcorn, peanut butter cookies, and Bud Light.

1:45 AM – Suddenly realized that I was extremely tired.

2:00 AM – Arrived home and instantly fell asleep.


SATURDAY

8:00 AM – Woke up with a splitting headache. Took some ibuprofen and went back to bed.

11:00 AM – Woke up again and realized that my head still hurt. Decided to get up and make smoothies for Iwanski and me. Hoped that a smoothie would make me feel better.

11:30 AM – Watched the video of me singing karaoke the night before (that Jonathan had e-mailed to me), and realized that I hadn’t sounded nearly as good as I thought I did. Laughed about it with Iwanski.

12:00 PM – Took a hot bath. Started to feel more like a human being again.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Still Going Wild

When I was in seventh grade, I entered a short story contest and wrote a children’s story called “The Night the Bubble Machine Went Wild.”

It was a story about three kids who are very excited to find out about a bubble machine that made all shapes of bubbles—even square and triangular bubbles! (Hey, I didn’t say it was a realistic story.) Anyway, even though they’ve been warned not to touch the machine without adult supervision, the kids sneak into the bubble machine “laboratory” late at night and start playing with the contraption. A short time later, the machine—as you might expect—goes wild!—and starts producing mass amounts of bubbles. Luckily, the kids get rescued before they drown in bubbles…and so, of course, they learn a valuable lesson about listening to their parents and about not touching powerful machines without adult supervision.

Hmm, as I write about it here, it seems pretty silly.

But what the hell, I still won the contest! And I was sooo excited. I had a local newspaper reporter come to interview me, and he wrote a story about me…I even got my picture in the paper! (This was a huge deal to a very nerdy, awkward teenage girl in the little bitty town of Hilbert, Wisconsin.)

So are you wondering if I actually won anything—money or some other kind of prize? I think I won a trophy of some sort, but that’s about it.

However, that’s when my 7th grade Social Studies teacher (who made up nicknames for every person in my class) started calling me “Million Dollar Carla” (pronounced like “Million Dollah Cahlah”)…and I was thrilled to be given the extra attention. He declared in front of the whole class that someday I would make a million dollars…oh, if only!!

Anyway, so the other day, Iwanski and I were walking on Clark Street on Chicago’s north side, and suddenly, right in front of us, I saw it! A real bubble machine!

Iwanski took out his camera to take a picture of the bubbles, and I jumped right in front to get my picture taken with it. I just couldn’t resist.

It seemed to me that the bubble machine was going wild, and I wanted to hang out right next to it. And totally without any adult supervision.

Friday, October 29, 2010

It's Friday...

Put on your party hat!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Reminder of My Younger Self

I can’t believe it used to be my job.

Tonight, I was rifling through several boxes and Rubbermaid crates, searching for an old book, when I came across a thick blue binder. My teaching portfolio! I hadn’t seen that thing in years.

I was a teacher back in the mid-90’s, for almost two years. As I paged through the portfolio, I was stunned at all that I had done as a teacher. I came up with creative lesson plans, organized writing and reading workshops, made colorful bulletin boards, set up science experiments, sent letters home to parents, evaluated student progress, ran parent-teacher conferences, and managed disciplinary problems of many students. All that!—and I was only 22 years old! How on earth did I do that?

In my current job, I have many responsibilities—but my main responsibility is to manage a customer service help desk. That doesn’t seem nearly as daunting as managing a classroom of 20 kids, with all of their unique personalities and learning and disciplinary challenges, and ensuring that their parents are always kept informed of what’s been going on in the classroom.

I know I attended college so that I could learn how to do just that, but still—I am just surprised and impressed that I was able to handle it all at such a young age.

And a couple of other things struck me as I turned over page after page of the dusty old binder:

First, that I did all of this work without touching a single computer, ever. Back then, people were just starting to hear about the internet, and I had only really used it for e-mail. As I paged through my teaching portfolio, I was struck by how many letters and lesson plans that I had handwritten. Full-length letters to parents, talking about what new things their kids were learning, and asking for supplies for science experiments and the like…lesson plans and fact sheets, describing to my students how they would be graded on their “dress like the character” book reports or news radio “broadcasts”…all handwritten—mostly in cursive, although I started to use printing as my main mode of handwriting later on. And certainly there were some typed lesson plans—but that’s TYPED, on a standard typewriter—not on a computer.

For many of the lesson plans that I organized, I had to get the ideas from teacher’s magazines or curriculum aids that I ordered—often with my own money. I remember really loving one magazine where teachers wrote in to share their lesson plan ideas—I think it was called “Mailbox” or something like that. Nowadays, there are probably hundreds (or more) websites with lesson plan ideas for teachers. Man, what I could have done with the internet in those days! I’m sure it would have made some aspects of teaching much easier.

Secondly, I was struck by how young and naïve I was. This became really clear to me when I was reading one of the letters that I had written to parents, requesting materials for a science experiment. At the beginning of the letter, I stated that I really needed a few materials by the next day: 5 empty, clean 8-10 ounce glass bottles; 40 pea seeds; and 30 sunflower seeds.

Now I ask you: Are these materials normal items that people have in their homes? I certainly don’t! Maybe glass bottles were more widely used back then, but pea seeds? Really? Who keeps those in their home? And did I really expect the parents to go out that very night and purchase pea seeds and sunflower seeds so that I’d have them for our science experiment the next day?

That’s what made me think of myself as being young and naïve.

But at the same time, my very young and naïve self managed a classroom of 20 twelve-year-old kids for almost two years. I have to say, I’m pretty impressed by my younger self.

And this was a great realization for me…because so often, when I think back to my teaching experience, I think about all the things that I did wrong—all the discipline problems that I couldn’t fix, the one confrontation with an overbearing, over-involved parent where I should have stood up for myself instead of caving in to her “orders,” the one time I got so angry at my 6th grade class that I think I even swore in front of them (it was either “damn” or “shit”—I can’t remember now)…those problems always seem to jump right into my mind when I think about my teaching days.

But now I see in front of me evidence of my successes as a teacher—the many notes that I kept where students wrote “You’re the best!” and “I really love you as a teacher,” and the one parent evaluation where the parent wrote “Miss Fochs was the best teacher my son has had. She has consistently offered additional help when needed. Because of her help and patience, his grades have greatly improved this last quarter.”

And even more rewarding than that, the many examples of students’ creativity that I saved…the funny haiku that a student wrote about April Fool’s Day, the “Jurassic News” newspaper a student created, wherein she wrote an article about a huge volcano erupting and terrifying the dinosaurs and woolly mammoths, and pictures from the book party that a group of students organized—which included decorations, costumes, food, and a “Pin the Leg on the Octopus” game. So very creative!

So even though it was a very tough job, very challenging and stressful, I am glad that I got the chance to be a teacher in my lifetime. I certainly learned a lot—and many of the skills I learned as a classroom teacher—such as organizational and interpersonal skills—have helped me in the jobs I’ve had since then—even in my current job. Sometimes in my current job, I am called upon to train someone on a particular computer program or process—and I always embrace that opportunity wholeheartedly. I am very comfortable with my teaching skills.

All that being said, I am also very grateful that I’m no longer a teacher. It’s one of the toughest jobs there is, and I very much admire teachers who can maintain their sense of enthusiasm and creativity, for year after year after year.

And I’m also grateful that we now have the internet. It has brought my family and friends closer together, and has put so much information and creativity right at our fingertips.

And best of all, it has brought you all, my bloggy friends, to me. And I’m very grateful for each and every one of you.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Miss Varietypants

Every Tuesday night, I get a happy surprise.

On that night every week, my good friend Jonathan cooks a delectable Julia Child meal for us to enjoy together.

But last night, he cheated on Julia Child and made a Spanish dish…



Paella!

Isn’t it pretty? Not only was it pretty, but it was damn good, too! I had never had paella before, and the combination of shrimp, chicken, sausage, red peppers, and rice cooked in onions, garlic, chicken broth, and spices was truly delightful.

And of course, the company was delightful, too. Jonathan and I have been friends for a long time and always have lots to talk about. We lingered for more than an hour over the paella, drinking a bit of "Two Buck Chuck" and chatting away happily.

We had barely finished eating the paella, though, when we started pondering on what we might have for next Tuesday’s dinner.

“How about we try to make some kind of shrimp dish together, so you can finally teach me how to devein those suckers?” I asked. I have been asking Jonathan for a while now if he’ll show me how to quickly peel and devein shrimp. (I have never deveined a shrimp before, but Jonathan grew up on the Texas Gulf Coast. He could probably devein a shrimp with his eyes closed.)

“Sure…we could have paella again,” he suggested.

“Nooo,” I whined, “We have to have something different! I don’t want to have paella two weeks in a row.”

Well, for some reason, this made Jonathan start cracking up.

“What?” I asked. “What did I say?”

He grinned at me, “Um…I have to tell you something.”

“What? Tell me!” I begged.

“Well, you’ve become a part of an ongoing joke with my friend Toni and me,” he replied.

“O-kay…why?” I asked, half-laughing, half-scared of what he might tell me.

He laughed again. “Because you HATE eating the same thing more than once a week or so.”

“Oh!” I laughed, relieved. “I didn’t know what you were going to say! Well, I’m not that bad,” I giggled.

But he was right. For some reason, I really do dislike eating the same thing more than once a week (or so). And I really hate having to eat the same exact thing two days in a row. I at least have to vary it up a little! This is especially true, I’ve noticed, of Chinese or Thai food—or really, any type of Asian cuisine. I love most Asian food, but to eat it for two days in a row is unthinkable to me. My taste buds just seem to scream “Viva Variety!”

I wonder if it’s just the Gemini in me—we Geminis like variety! Although—I do eat a salad every single day…but of course, I usually change up the salad dressing I use on a day-to-day basis.

Who knows why I’m like this? But apparently Jonathan thinks it’s pretty weird…and funny!

“Remember when you called me a couple of Monday nights ago, and said you were making an omelet?” Jonathan asked, “Remember, you asked me if we were going to have mushrooms in our Tuesday night meal, because you wanted to use mushrooms in your omelet—but not if we were going to have mushrooms the next night?”

“Oh, yeah!” I laughed.

“Well, right after I hung up with you,” he said, “I immediately called Toni and said, ‘You’ll never guess what Carla just asked me!’”

OK, I have to admit that it was pretty funny.

Jonathan continued, “Oh, and the other night, when I told Toni that I was cooking Boeuf Bourguignon for you, Iwanski, and Diane, Toni said, ‘So I guess that means that Carla hasn’t had any Boeuf Bourguignon for the past MONTH!’”

I laughed my ass off. Honestly, I felt a little bit honored that I had become the subject of their private (now public) joke. And I guess it is a little weird that I don’t like to repeat my meals very often.

But then I had a new thought. “You know, I think Iwanski is like that, too,” I said. “He doesn’t usually like to go out to dinner for the same type of food two days in a row.”

But then I remembered Iwanski’s penchant for hot dogs and bologna sandwiches, and I quickly retracted my statement.

“Never mind—Iwanski could probably eat hot dogs every single day,” I said, giggling. “And in fact, he’s eaten a bologna sandwich for lunch every day this week.”

And then there’s our cats. They eat two scoops of dry food and one can of meat by-products every day. And you don’t see them complaining. They love that crap.

I guess I’m just the weird one.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Four Husbands

A while back, I promised that I would write about my four husbands.

Yes, I have four husbands. At least that’s what I have decided.

First and foremost is my main man, Iwanski (my real husband). Ever since we met back in 1992 (can you believe it?), he has been my favorite person in the whole world. He’s the one that I always want to be with, the one with whom I like to take long walks, watch sitcoms, cheer (or boo) for the Bears, and drink beer and watch Hee Haw. He’s the kindest person I know and also the funniest. He makes me laugh every single day. Here’s one of my favorite pictures of us.




Then there’s my gay husband, Jonathan—whom I call Dooder (and he calls me Poodle). Jonathan is one of the sweetest, most generous people in the world, and someone whom I’m proud to call my friend. He and I met way back in May of 2001, when he was a temp at my job, and I was his boss. Soon after he came onboard as a temp in my department, he landed a full-time job in another department, and I remember saying to him, “Yay! Now I’m not your boss any more, and we can really be friends.” And almost ten years later, we are really good friends—and neighbors. He lives in Marina City, which is about a block from my apartment—and every Tuesday night, he cooks me/us a yummy dinner at his place. (See what I mean about being generous?) Every time we get together, we laugh a lot, too. Here is one of my favorite pictures of my gay husband and me.




Then there’s my work husband, Kevin. Kevin and I have worked together for several years, and we share a common love for sitcoms (especially ones starring Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David) and for birding. (Every time Iwanski gets a good picture of a unique migratory bird, I have to share the picture with Kevin. And he actually gets as excited as I do about it.) Nearly every day, Kevin and I quote Seinfeld to each other, and I am not kidding when I tell you that his way of speaking and his sense of humor are both extremely similar to Jerry Seinfeld’s character in the sitcom. Seriously, it’s uncanny. And hilarious. I started calling him my “work husband” a few years ago when we both saw an episode of “King of Queens” when the main characters, Doug and Carrie, both decide that they have work spouses. (Doug’s “work wife” just happens to be his best friend, Deacon. It was really funny.) Anyway, Kevin is also a good “husband” in that he keeps me sane on those rare days when someone at work makes me mad enough to punch him/her.

Oh, here’s one more thing about Kevin: For some reason, he won’t let me put his picture on my blog. He’s a little quirky like that. I guess there’s something weird about all “husbands.” We wives just have to forgive them their little idiosyncrasies.


Last, but not least, is my out-of-town husband, Tom. Tom and I have known each other for almost 15 years, and he and I used to work together until he moved to Philadelphia. (So I guess he’s sort-of like my “work ex-husband.”) My favorite thing about Tom is that he LOVES to party. And I don’t mean that he just likes to party once in a while; he LOVES to party whenever he gets the chance. He is extremely sociable and has a lot of friends, but he’s also very down to earth and not the least bit snobbish. He’s also dedicated to his friends and family in Chicago, and even though he now lives and works in Philadelphia, he flies home a couple of times a month just to hang out with them. Our favorite place to meet up (typically with several other people from work) is Jimmy Figg’s, a bar that has karaoke on Friday nights. We always have so much fun when we get together there (and of course, we always end up singing karaoke.) Here’s a picture of Tom and me on a recent “outing” at Jimmy Figg’s.




I love all of my husbands (‘though of course, none as much as my real husband)…but they all share some of the same qualities: They are all kind, generous, and funny.

Most girls would consider themselves lucky to have one wonderful husband. I guess I’m really lucky then, because I have four!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Hattie the Birder

Lately, Iwanski and I have spent a lot of time in city parks and along the lakeshore, looking for unique migratory birds. I guess you can say that we're really into birding.

Apparently so is Hattie the cat. I woke up in the morning and found her lying here, next to this book. She had apparently been studying the "menu" during the night.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Holy Heat!

This morning, when I got up and walked into the living room, I saw this:



Apparently my cat likes yoga as much as I do! Well, at least she likes lying on yoga mats. Of course, she likes lying on pretty much anything.

Anyway, speaking of yoga, last night, my coworker and I decided to check out a new (free) class at a studio called “Core Power Yoga.”

Well, apparently we did not read the Core Power Yoga website clearly enough.

We were both wearing our usual yoga outfits--t-shirts and exercise pants—and as we filled out the check-in paperwork, the receptionist remarked, “You’ll be in the heated studio—studio 1.”

Um, excuse me? Heated? What does that mean?

We were about to find out.

As we walked into the classroom, we immediately started sweating. (Later, I found out on their website that the room was heated to NINETY-FIVE degrees, plus humidity.) I’m kind-of glad I didn’t know how hot it was ahead of time. I think it would have freaked me out to know that it was ninety-five degrees in there. As it was, I was a little worried that I might not be able to handle a whole hour of the heat, plus movement.

My friend and I exchanged slightly nervous, slightly amused looks.

“Oh my God, I’m sweating so much already!” I said, rolling up my pants legs and praying that I would make it through the class without a problem.

But you know what? As the class wore on, as uncomfortable as the heat was, I realized that it was really helping me stretch better. I guess it makes sense—warm muscles are easier to stretch—duh!

I’m not going to lie. It was a tough workout. But it also felt really good—especially when it was over.

Oh, yes, I was really glad when it was over. As I walked out of the studio, my clothes were sticking to me, and I needed a shower more than I think I’ve ever needed a shower before.

And guess what? I’m doing it all again tomorrow night. Yes, that’s right. I am subjecting myself to another hour of exercise in 95-degree heat and humidity.

Just call me a glutton for punishment.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Miss Healthypants Reveals

1. I think Beavis and Butthead are hilarious. Once I even ordered a collection of Beavis and Butthead DVD’s from an infomercial. The poor accented fellow on the other end of the phone line tried to sell me about fifteen other items before finally finishing the sale. That was the first time I’ve ordered something over the phone—and it will definitely be the last time.

2. I eat salad every single day, unless I’m sick or it’s a holiday (and even then sometimes).

3. I now call my husband “Iwanski” to his face. Seriously--he’ll say something that really makes me laugh, and I’ll put my arms around him and say, “I love you, Iwanski.”

4. I watch “Seinfeld” re-runs nearly every day and can make a Seinfeld reference for anything. Seriously. Try to challenge me. You can talk about whales, belly buttons, or socks—and I can think of Seinfeld scenes involving each of those. (Off the top of my head, I can think of two scenes involving socks.)

5. I have to take a warm bubble bath at least once a week. It’s a Miss Healthypants requirement.

6. I don’t like expensive jewelry or purses. I’d rather spend my money on things like a trip to the Ozarks or a humongous pile of cheese.

7. I watch both “Hee Haw” and “The Marty Stuart Show” every single week. And I really enjoy both of them. (Marty Stuart kicks ass. So do Buck Owens and Roy Clark.)

8. I love reading parenting books, even though I’m not a parent. I think it’s because they are always chock-full of happy, touching success stories.

9. I swear like a trucker when I’m not at work. I probably should work on this if some day I would like to be a parent.

10. I just got distracted by the t.v. and accidentally wrote that I love reading trucking magazines. Now I can’t stop laughing.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Adventures in Flambéing

Tonight, Jonathan and I had an flambéing adventure...it was fun!



P.S. The food--Julia Child's Steak au Poivre--was sooo good. I highly recommend that you all ask one of your best friends to cook it for you.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I'm Freezing!

It’s only September 26th, and it’s 56 degrees outside…but as I sit here in our apartment, I am wearing a long-sleeved shirt, sweatpants, warm socks, a Snuggie, and a blanket.

And I’m cold!

How on earth am I going to survive the fall and winter this year??

I can only hope that my body will adapt. I am comforted slightly by the knowledge learned from past experience, that six months from now, 56 degrees will feel absolutely balmy to me.

Still, summer is gone, and that makes me a little sad.

But then again, the season of drinking warm red wine and cuddling up in a cozy blanket is here.

And that, my friends, makes me happy.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Apple Happy

This week has been a pretty good one, other than the couple of conversations with grouchy people at work—which I blame on the full moon. Seriously, did you ever notice that so many people get cranky as hell when there’s a full moon? I work in Customer Service. I’ve noticed.

Anywho, so other than the usual working, eating, exercising, and watching t.v., this week has been pretty normal. Good normal, but still normal.

But there was one little event of the week that for some reason, made me really happy. It was such a little thing, really…

I made my first ever fruit dessert—apple crumble.

See? I told you it was just a little thing.

But to me—a girl who rarely cooks anything that doesn’t involve opening a package and popping it in the microwave—it was an accomplishment.

For some reason—even though I don’t do it very often—I really enjoy baking. Now mind you, I don’t feel the same way about cooking. I would pretty much rather have my teeth drilled than stand around in a kitchen waiting for a steak to finish grilling or rice to finish cooking. Boring!

But baking…now that’s a whole ‘nother thing to me. I think that’s because baking is not absolutely necessary in the grand scheme of things. You could never eat another cookie or cake or pie or yes, even piece of bread—for the rest of your life, and you would survive (even though it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun). Baking is decadent—it’s the icing on the (cooking) cake! I like thinking that when I bake something, I am treating myself (and my loved ones) to something slightly luxurious. To me, all the baking work is SO worth the end result.

And thus, I stood there for several minutes at the kitchen counter on Tuesday night, peeling, coring, and slicing apple after apple after apple happily, enjoying every moment of it.

And later, as I took my first bite of warm, sweet, cinnamony apple crumble topped with melty vanilla ice cream, I smiled with delight and settled back into my chair…it was sooo delicious. And it also helped that Iwanski liked it, too! I enjoyed every bite of my bowl filled with tender apples, sugary crumble, and luscious ice cream.

And the best part was that we had leftover apple crumble, for the next couple of days. Hooray!

I’m glad that I decided to bake this week. Besides the yummy result, I also felt good about the fact that I tried something new. I’m thinking that it might be a really good idea to try something new every week.

So what new thing should I try next week? Maybe skydiving? Or rock-climbing?

Nah, I think I’ll stick to baking. But this time I think I will make pie. Maybe blueberry pie.

I think I’ve discovered an important happiness secret this week. Trying something new can bring a little slice of happiness into your life. And it can also bring pie. Mmmm….pie.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Cardi-Yoga

OK, it’s no secret by now that I like doing yoga. (And I’m sure you’re all probably sick of hearing about it—and that’s too bad for you, because it’s pretty much been my obsession lately.) Honestly, it’s the one exercise that doesn’t bore me silly—and pretty much the only one that I can stand doing, besides taking long, relaxing walks with Iwanski.

However, as I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been reading this book called “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain”—and the one exercise that the author consistently mentions that is important to brain function is rigorous cardio exercise (i.e. not long, relaxing walks).

Rigorous cardio exercise? Ugh. I can’t run, because of my stupid plantar fasciitis foot. (It’s getting better, but not good enough to run yet.) And I don’t even really like running, anyway.

We do have a small workout room in our apartment building, with a couple of elliptical machines and exercise bikes. But for some reason, to me, using the elliptical machine feels like death. I can only handle doing that for a few minutes at a time. And biking on a stationery bike bores me to tears.

We also have a pool in our apartment building. But the whole process of having to change into a swimsuit, go swimming, and then going back up to our apartment, taking a shower, blow-drying my air, etc…etc…it just feels like too much of a hassle to me. (I know, I’m a big whiner. But seriously, people always think that if they have a pool in their building, they will use it all the time. Trust me, you don’t.)

So what is one Miss Healthypants to do, for cardio exercise? I wondered. Would I have to succumb to the big bad elliptical machine or the boring-ass stationery bike?

Well, about halfway through this morning’s “Music Yoga Flow” class, I had my answer. Yoga, my dear friends, can CERTAINLY count as rigorous cardio exercise. At least if it’s the “Music Yoga Flow” class at Exhale Spa Chicago.

First of all, when my friend and I walked into the studio, I almost immediately started sweating—and that was even before we started moving! It had to be about 85 degrees in there, at least. When we sat down on our mats, the girl next to me suggested right away that we both go get a towel.

“You’re gonna sweat a lot, trust me,” she said.

I started to get nervous. How hard was this class gonna be?

I soon had my answer. About halfway through our SEVENTY sun salutations (yes, I said seventy—for those of you who know what a sun salutation is, you know that it was hard work!), I thought, “Good Lord, what is this teacher thinking?” (I know that there are some studios that sometimes do 108 sun salutation classes, but I’ve always thought those people were insane. I still kinda do.)

As for the music, I was really grateful to have the mix of reggae, blues, rock, and light hip-hop to keep me motivated. I really enjoyed that part of the class.

Nonetheless, as I was breathing heavily and saw sweat droplets fall from my face onto my yoga mat, I started to wonder if I could really keep moving. The teacher mentioned that it was an “intense cardiovascular workout”—and I thought, “Duh!”

And then I thought “Yay!” Yoga can be cardio. I can get everything I need in yoga.

Thank God. Because every other kind of exercise pretty much sucks ass.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Miss Sniffleypants

I have the sniffles right now, and a sore throat.

But other than that, I am a happy camper. I’m reading this fascinating book called “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” by John J. Ratey. It explores the connection between exercise and the brain—and how exercise helps with not only cognitive functions of the brain, but it can also prevent/treat anxiety, depression, ADD, addictions, aggression, and even Alzheimer's disease.

So far it is sooo interesting and very motivating to me.

I’ve exercised both in the morning and at night every day this week. I went to yoga class last night, and I’m also signed up for a yoga class tomorrow and on Saturday morning. Whoo hoo me! The Saturday class I’m signed up for is called “Music Yoga Flow.” The website says that the class is “set to great music, including rock, reggae, hip hop, blues and world beats.” That should be interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever done yoga to hip hop music before! The idea makes me giggle, but I’m really looking forward to the experience.

So hey, I’m living up to my name and acting like Miss Healthypants, after all.

Except for this damn sore throat and sniffles.

Dammit.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Iwanski Challenge

Last night, Iwanski and I were taking a walk in our neighborhood. As we took in the sights, smells, and sounds of a beautiful, bustling Friday night in Chi-town, Iwanski commented on overpopulation, politics, and the propensity of many people to steal if given the right opportunity. Although in many cases his words were laced with humor, I just couldn’t ignore the slightly negative tone that seemed to be part of everything he said.

I stopped and smiled at him. “I challenge you to not saying anything negative or sarcastic for the next ten minutes,” I said.

“Why?” he asked. “Hey, my being that way is just part of my schtick, part of my humor.”

“Seriously,” I replied. “I’ll bet you can’t go ten minutes without saying anything negative or sarcastic.”

“Okay, fine,” he said, giving in.

Suddenly, almost on cue, a bunch of people on a bicycle tour came riding past us. They were all wearing these really dorky matching helmets, they all had huge smiles on their faces, and many of them were ringing their little handlebar bells when they went past us. And honestly—well, with their helmets, and their bell-ringing, and their gigantic smiles, they all looked pretty geeky.

“Oh, man…are you kidding me?” Iwanski asked incredulously. “I can’t say anything here?”

I laughed. “They look like they’re having a good time,” I said, as several of them waved at us and rang their bicycle bells.

It was almost too much for Iwanski to handle. Through clenched teeth, he said, “Yes, they seem to be taking a lot of enjoyment from their activity.”

I laughed my ass off as the last of the helmeted bicyclists rode by, smiling and waving.

I looked up at the night sky and smiled broadly. “See, God has a sense of humor,” I said. “Thanks, God!”

Somehow, Iwanski made it through the next few minutes without a sarcastic blunder—except when he started to say that a passing CTA bus was “likely full of miscreants.”

And now, every time I think about those bicyclists, I start giggling. I’ll always remember my heaven-sent cavalry of dorks on bikes.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Crow!

Tonight at yoga class, our teacher challenged us to try the pose called “Crow.”

Crow is a crazy-intimidating pose wherein one tries to actually balance their knees upon their upper arms. Impossible? Apparently not; I’ve seen people do it. Here’s a picture:



Anyway, my yoga buddies and I normally scoff at the very notion of doing that pose, while we make some weak-ass attempts at it, just for show. But tonight, one of us actually did it!

And it certainly wasn’t me. As my friend Rhyan balanced herself on her upper arms, she exclaimed,

“I did it! In your FACE!”

We all started cracking up. No, apparently yoga isn’t always just about peace and stress relief.

Sometimes it’s about accomplishing something with your body that you’ve never been able to do before…and then boasting about it to your friends.

And now my competitive side has been challenged. Even though I know yoga is all about knowing your body and trusting what it can or can’t do on any given day, I still want to be the next one of us to do the pose. Mark my words, one day I will do the Crow.

In Your Face!!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Tiger on Your Lap

Yesterday, I was telling Iwanski about the pilates class that I had taken in Millennium Park that morning.

“When we were doing a forward fold,” I said to Iwanski, “The teacher said ‘Picture yourself sitting on the couch watching t.v., and there’s something on your lap—like a cat, a dog, or even a person…now picture that it’s a tiger sleeping on your lap. Now, suddenly a new show comes on t.v.—it’s a Barney-Care Bears crossover Christmas special, and it’s going to be on for three hours. You need to grab for that remote control on the coffee table in front of you—but you can’t disturb the tiger on your lap. So lean forward for that remote—but don’t disturb that tiger!’ ”

When I told Iwanski about this, I was thinking that it was a funny image and a brilliant method for getting us to do the forward fold correctly, so as to strengthen our abdominal muscles.

Iwanski sat there thinking for a minute, and then he said, “I would say that if you have a tiger sleeping on your lap, you have much bigger problems than just what’s on t.v.”

That made me crack up. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that.

I thank God that I’m married to someone who makes me laugh all the time.

Monday, August 30, 2010

It's All About Being Kind

I’ve realized something about myself this week.

I am an emotional eater.

It really surprised me to realize that about myself. I had always pictured an “emotional eater” to be a woman with extreme emotional issues, who sat there bawling her eyes out as she polished off an entire half gallon of Haggan Dazs chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. That is certainly not me.

However, I realized that I do eat when I’m anxious or frustrated. Or at the opposite end of the spectrum, when I’m bored.

Like the other night. I was feeling very anxious about the little infection in my finger that could easily become a very scary blood infection. So what did I do? I polished off a half a bag of pretzels and ended up with a stomachache. Yeah, that’s what you call emotional eating.

I’ve read some interesting books by Geneen Roth (her latest being “Women, Food, and God”), and so far I really like some of the advice that she gives in her books.

If I were to take away one profound truth that I’ve learned from her books, it is this: Be kind to yourself.

It sounds really simple, “Be kind to yourself.” But what does being kind to yourself mean?

In my world (and to paraphrase some of the author’s ideas), being kind to myself means:

1) Finding a better outlet than food for anxiety and frustration,
2) When I’m bored, finding something entertaining to do, instead of eating,
3) Eating slowly, without distractions, and really paying attention to & enjoying my food,
4) When I’m eating, stopping every couple of minutes to ask myself “Am I still hungry?”,
5) Stopping the negative self-talk, like “I feel so fat today” or “I can’t believe I can’t fit into those pants any more! I’m getting so fat! I have to go on a diet right away.”

So far, I’ve really been diggin’ on this “being kind to myself” stuff. Here are some of the discoveries I’ve made in the past few days:

--On Saturday afternoon, I had a good-sized bowl of Fannie Mae Mint Meltaways ice cream. (Yummy!) Instead of watching t.v., reading, or listening to music while I was eating it, I sat comfortably and really paid attention to every single spoonful of that ice cream that I ate. Man, what a wonderful experience that was! Really, it was such a treat to really pay attention to what I was eating. And later that night, I felt no need to snack as I had done for almost every night in the past few months. I think I felt like I had been so indulgent (kind to myself) earlier in the day, so I was satisfied with not eating a late-night snack. (Late-night snacking had become a really bad habit for me.)

--Last night, I watched a lot of t.v. and was getting really bored. As I felt myself reaching for a bag of cookies, I stopped and asked myself if I was really hungry. I decided that I wasn’t, that I was just bored. So instead, I challenged Iwanski to a “Crossword Puzzle Competition.” (We compete to see who can finish the crossword puzzle in the daily “Red Eye” newspaper the fastest.) And whatta ya’ know? My “hunger” just disappeared.

--I realized that a lot of times at work, I overindulge on a snack at my desk because I’m anxious, rushing, and not paying attention to what I’m eating. Today, I forced myself to step away from my desk. The result? I calmed down and enjoyed a really delicious snack of popcorn. (At the grocery store, I found these individualized bags of microwave “kettle corn” popcorn at 110 calories a bag—very yummy stuff!)

--I also realized that I often do the same thing during lunchtime at work. I am always rushing from one project to the next, so lunch became yet another project to “finish.” All too often, I ended up with that stuffed, bloated feeling—which made for an uncomfortable afternoon. Today, I really slowed down and savored my food—and I stopped every few minutes to ask myself, “Am I really hungry?” I found this challenging—as I think I’ve been ignoring my body’s hunger signals for far too long—but I did come to realize that I wasn’t really hungry for those last couple bites of my Healthy Choice Asian Potsticker meal (as opposed to the um…Polish? potsticker meal?). So I did the unthinkable—I threw the last little bit away! Wow, that was a first for me. And most importantly, I didn’t throw it away because I was denying myself the food—I threw it away because I was no longer hungry—and being kind to myself means not eating too much and giving myself a stomachache.

--Today, a coworker of mine looked at herself in the bathroom mirror at work and said, while laughing lightly, “I just noticed how fat my belly looks in this outfit.” Now, before I began thinking about this whole “being kind to yourself” idea, I would have laughed and commiserated with her; I probably would have said something like, “I think my belly looks fat no matter what I wear” or something equally as self-critical. Instead, I began to share with her how I’ve been thinking about this stuff lately, and she said, “Hmm…okay…” I think I saw a faint recognition of “This is truth” in her eyes. We women are way, FAR too hard on ourselves, with how we judge our bodies. In fact, it’s now socially acceptable to criticize our bodies…in my personal experience, if you’re with a group of women who are criticizing what they perceive to be their “fat butt” or their “pudgy tummy,” you’re expected to join in by finding fault in your own body. Isn’t that ridiculous?

It’s just been such an awakening for me so far, to really embrace this concept of “being kind to yourself.”

And I know that I’m just at the beginning of this “adventure” away from emotional eating, into self-kindness…I can’t wait to see what discoveries lie ahead!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Blues, Stay Away From Me!

It’s so very tempting to have the Sunday night blues tonight. But you know what? I have so much to look forward to this week.

For example…

--The weekly “Tuesday night Julia Child Meal” with Jonathan. Last week, he and our good friend Liane whipped up another awesome scallop meal—this one with cheese—my God, the Wisconsin girl in me loved that! –and with a yummy veggie side dish and a delectable Orange Bavarian Cream for dessert. (My cholesterol level rose just by looking at this meal!) But it was positively delightful, and I can’t wait to see the tantalizing meal that Jonathan creates this week!

--Big Brother – my one reality show indulgence is getting close to the end, and it’s getting exciting! I can’t wait to see who gets voted out this week.

--Wednesday “kick off day” – At work, I’ve been put in charge of working with a new customer service team during the fall, and Wednesday is our first “kick off day.” It promises to be busy as hell, but I’m ready for it, and eager to prove that our team can do an excellent job in managing the heavy workload. (I actually love being busy at work—just call me a glutton for punishment! It’s certainly better than being bored.)

--Getting rid of this stupid finger infection! I have the feeling that these awesome antibiotics are going to do the job this week, and I’ll be left with a normal finger again!

--Having a glass of wine after I finally get to get off these awesome antibiotics!

--Spending time, as always, with my hubby—my favorite person in the whole world.

This is going to be a great week—I just know it!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Not-A-Fingah!

OK, so I’m not going to write about any of those topics I mentioned in my previous blog posting. Instead, I’m going to write about my finger—yes, my finger—and how it almost landed me in the hospital.

For the past several months, I’ve had a patch of extremely dry skin on the middle finger of my right hand. I’ve never had dry skin like this before, and it’s been itchy and irritating as hell. Finally, I asked my sister-in-law Donna (who for some reason always seems to be able to solve most of life’s minor problems) what I should do about it.

“It looks like you have eczema,” she said. “Go to Walgreen’s and buy a tube of their cortisone cream with moisturizers. I had a patch of eczema on my hand and that’s what helped me.”

I did as Donna suggested, and it did seem to help for a little while. Still, that very annoying, persistent itch would not go away, and I couldn’t stop myself from scratching. The skin was extremely irritated and broken.

I noticed that the more stressed out I got at work, the more itchy my finger was. And the more itchy my finger was, the more I scratched it. And the more I scratched it, the more it hurt.

I had a really stressful week at work. My poor little finger was miserable.

Then, on Thursday of this week, I noticed that the knuckle on the bottom of that finger felt “bruised,” and looked a bit red and puffy.

“That’s weird,” I thought—but I figured I must have bumped it on something. (I’m a bit of a clumsy person and tend to bump into things on a regular basis.)

Then on Friday (yesterday), the knuckle was even more red, swollen, and painful. I began to suspect that I had an infection.

I called Iwanski’s other sister, Anna, who’s a nurse, and asked her if I should go to the doctor.

“Absolutely,” she said without hesitation. “You need to get some antibiotics right away.”

“Okay,” I thought. I was starting to get a bit worried, so I called my doctor as she suggested. They squeezed me in for an appointment at 2 PM.

After waiting approximately 20 hours (at least it felt that way) and reading the entire Entertainment Weekly magazine from April 2010, the doctor finally came into the room. He was also followed by another dude, whom he introduced as an intern.

After I explained my symptoms and the doc took a look, he and the intern informed me that I definitely had an infection and that they would be giving me an antibiotic to knock it out.

“There is one caveat,” the doctor said. “Infections in the hands are a very serious thing. Because there isn’t much tissue in the fingers or the hand, infections there can spread really fast.”

“So tonight, I want you to monitor it closely,” he continued, “And if looks or feels worse, don’t hesitate—go to the ER immediately, and they’ll hook you up to an IV.”

The ER? An IV? I was stunned. Who knew that a simple little finger infection could lead to that?

So I did what I was told, and took a couple of the heavy-duty antibiotics that were prescribed to me—and then last night, I looked closely at my hand. Well, it still hurt, and the knuckle was still red and puffy—but it didn’t seem to be any worse. So we wouldn’t have to spend a night in the ER, after all—thank God!

I am so very glad that we live in the era of modern medicine and kick-ass antibiotics that can fight off these types of infections before they turn into something a lot worse.

And I wanted to share this story, just in case anyone reading it has a bit of painful, puffy, red skin on their hand. I guess it’s better to get it checked out instead of possibly ending up in the hospital!

Oh, and also, the doc prescribed a steroid cream to me, for the eczema—so I’m hoping it works. If it does, I guess it will have been worth it to have to deal with this little infection, to get help for that extremely annoying itch.


P.S. I will send a virtual pie to anyone who can tell me where the title of this blog post comes from!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Coming Attractions

It has been a really really busy week at work--especially today (I arrived at work today to find 350 new e-mails in my in-box!)...so I'm extremely tired. And even though I'd love to have the energy to write a REAL blog today, this is what you're all stuck with instead...Miss Healthypants' list of Bloggy Coming Attractions.

Here's some stuff (see, I can't even come up with a better word than "stuff") that I will write about as soon as I have a little more energy:

Jonathan's brilliant food creation of the week, and his first-ever pair of "short pants" (which the rest of the world calls "shorts")

My four (yes, four!) husbands

A really weird acting audition I went to once

Some things that surprised/shocked me when I was a "newbie" to the city

And much much more!

So y'all please come back soon...ya' hear?

P.S. I promise I will be back commenting on other people's blogs soon, as well...I've been reading and not commenting--bad blogger friend I am!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Damn, I'm Lucky!

Yesterday, I called my good friend Jonathan to see if he’d like to have dinner with me after my free Tuesday night yoga class. (Free yoga = awesome!)

He replied, “Sure! Do you want to go out to dinner, or should I cook?”

Now, I know Jonathan LOVES to cook and is really good at it, too. However, I didn’t want to impose on him.

“It’s up to you, dude,” I replied.

“OK, I’ll cook!” He said, with a smile in his voice. “I’ve been wanting to try this one Julia Child fish recipe, anyway.”

“Great, I’ll stop by after yoga!” I said, knowing that whatever he cooked, it was bound to be good. He’s a wonderful chef who has been on a Julia Child kick for the past few months (check out his Julia Child blog!)—and Iwanski and I have often been the very lucky recipients of his delightful French creations.

So anyway, after an hour of bends and twists and downward dog poses, I stopped by the grocery store for some bagged salad (Miss Healthypants always needs her salad!) and then traipsed over to Jonathan’s apartment, excited to discover the culinary pleasures that awaited me.

And I was hungry. Like, ravenously hungry. Actually, there is no other kind of hunger for me. I tend to go from zero to ravenous in approximately one and a half minutes. (Iwanski is more like a food camel. He can not eat all day, and not even realize it until about 5 PM or so. He thinks it’s a little crazy, how quickly my hunger hits me.)

So being the ravenous crazypants that I am, I walked into Jonathan’s apartment and immediately assessed the situation to see how long it would be until I could stuff some food down my gullet. Well, it turns out that Jonathan still needed to create the sauce for the meal, so I knew it would be a little while before the main course was ready.

Luckily, Miss Healthypants was prepared for such a food emergency. Remember, I had bought bagged lettuce—so while Jonathan stirred and whisked away in the kitchen, I settled down and had myself a big ole’ salad.

While I devoured my salad, I heard lots and lots and LOTS of whisking going on in the kitchen. Never have I heard so much whisking happening, and for so long. My curiosity was getting the better of me.

“What are we having, dude?” I asked. “Did you say you were making fish?”

“No, not fish,” He replied.

“Oh, are we having chicken?” I asked.

“Nope, not chicken. It’s a surprise.” He said with a gleam in his eye.

“Is it beef?” I guessed. “Or pork?”

“Nope, not beef and not pork.”

“Pasta?” I asked.

“No, not pasta,” he smiled.

What the heck? I was all out of guesses. I sat there and thought for a minute.

Then suddenly, this amazing thought came to me. Could it—could it be? Could he be preparing my very favorite type of food in the whole world? The type of food that I consider to be one of God’s greatest gifts to this earth? The type of food that I think is the most succulent, tender, delicious food in the whole world?

“Dude, are you making scallops?” I asked excitedly.

He smiled. “Yep, I’m making scallops,” he replied.

“Really?!” I squealed with delight. “I love scallops so much!”

“I know you do,” he laughed. “That’s why I’m making them.”

Folks, that’s how you know you have a good friend. Not only does he offer to make you a delightful, delectable Julia Child meal—but then he also uses your very favorite type of seafood in the recipe. I was so touched by his thoughtfulness.

And as he lay the plate of scallops in a beurre blanc (white butter) sauce, served over a bed of asparagus with sides of cherry tomatoes and pan roasted, buttery baby Yukon Gold potatoes, right in front of me—well, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.



And the taste? It was out-of-this-world delicious. Even though I had just finished off nearly an entire bag of salad, I wolfed down that entire plate like I hadn’t eaten for days.

And of course, the company was delightful as always, too. Jonathan and I always have a good time together.

Halfway through eating it, he remarked with a devilish grin, “You know, between the two of us, we’re consuming about a stick and a half of butter here.”

How dare he mention that?! But that certainly didn’t stop me from enjoying every bit of it and nearly licking the plate clean.

After dinner, Jonathan asked, “Could we maybe do this once a week?”

I looked at him, surprised. “You want to make dinner for me—for us—every week?”

“Well, sure,” he replied, smiling. “I’d love that.”

“Absolutely!” I replied. Who could pass up an offer like that?

I’m telling you, I feel so lucky to have a friend like Jonathan. He is such a generous and thoughtful person.

And he makes a mean scallop.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Time's Fun

Recently, Iwanski and I did some travels through parts of Illinois and Indiana--which, of course, are the two most exciting states in America. And we also accidentally ended up in Michigan...but more about that later.

Along the way, we took in some fun tourist sites, a lot of Mother Nature's beauty, and also some of her destruction.

We saw some crazy flooding…




We saw some beautiful nature at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois…




And some in Tinley Park, Illinois…




And we accidentally ended up in Michigan after searching for “Oink’s”…



(On the way to the Indiana Dunes State Park, we saw a sign for a business that said it was "five miles ahead, across the street from Oink’s—so I made Iwanski drive five miles to find out what Oinks was. As we got closer and closer to Oink’s, we suddenly saw a Michigan welcome sign. We were accidentally in Michigan!—and all because of Oink’s.)

It was a relaxing, fun, funny time...and I can't believe it's August 13th already!!

Sigh...I would like now to quote a line from the movie Short Circuit (I'm such a nerd; I love that movie!), "Time's fun when you're having flies."

Sunday, August 8, 2010

If Miss Healthypants Was In Charge

Recently, I told Iwanski that if I ran for President, I would issue two new executive orders.

First, and foremost—all fast-food and sit-down restaurants must have a side salad on their menu that costs two dollars or less.

I mean, really, how hard would this be? You put a few lettuce leaves in a bowl, add a couple of cherry tomatoes and maybe some cheese, top it with your dressing of choice—and ta da! You have a side salad. It’s easy and cheap—and it should not cost more than two dollars.

My other executive order would be this:

All public and private bathrooms must have a toilet plunger right next to the toilet. I mean, it has “toilet” right in the name—so wouldn’t it make sense for the plunger to be within close proximity to the toilet itself? It has no other use. What would be so hard about this?

You may be wondering about the origins of this executive order… well, I will tell you a short story to illustrate its importance.

Imagine yourself in a Wendy’s restaurant in rural Illinois. You have just used the toilet (only to go number one), and you flush the toilet—but then you realize in horror, too late, that the person before you has stuffed approximately 5000 sheets of toilet paper in the toilet—and it is now in serious danger of overflowing. As the water rises higher and higher and threatens to start pouring someone else’s toilet paper and poo all over the floor, what do you do? Do you go out, cut in line in front of six other people, and inform the restaurant cashier that the toilet is overflowing? Talk about embarrassing! Or do you hightail it out of there, rush to your car, and take off, wheels-a-blazing, before anyone can blame you for the mishap?

Guess which one Miss Healthypants did? I’m not proud to say that I fled the scene of the crime…and I’m a little ashamed that I did so. But think about it, you might do the same if you only had a split second to decide. (Don’t judge me!)

But the point is, if there was a toilet plunger in the bathroom, right next to the toilet, I could have avoided the whole agonizing moment. And think about the poor woman before me—toilet paper waster though she was—who tried to flush it the first time? She could have also avoided any of the potential embarrassment if there was a plunger nearby.

Also note that this law is to take effect in private homes, as well. No one wants to get caught at a friend’s home with a digestive problem and no plunger to be found!

So what do you think? I would run on the slogan “A Side Salad With Every Plate and A Plunger With Every Pot!” Would you vote for me?