Friday, April 30, 2010

I Need To Get Out There!

It’s Friday afternoon, I’m on my lunch break, and my coworkers look like they’re about to spring out of their chairs and run straight for the door. Why? Because it’s April 30th today, and it’s sunny and 83 freakin’ degrees outside! Hell, I’m about to spring out of my chair and run straight for the door!

I told one of my coworkers that our company should have at least five mandatory “warm spring days off”—so that when the weather is sunny and reaches over 75 degrees, we can all run for the hills (or to the suburbs, in some cases—or to one of Chicago’s city parks, in my case) and enjoy a lovely spring day off.

Have I mentioned that I love this weather?

Sigh…springtime in Chi-town. Life is good.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I Saw Goslings!

On my walk home from work today, I looked down from the Lake Street bridge…and to my surprise, I saw a Mama and Papa goose and five cute little fuzzy yellow goslings following behind them. They were walking alongside the river, poking around in the weeds and looking ADORABLE!

I called Iwanski, and then I called Jonathan, to report the gosling-sighting…I told Jonathan that I’m convinced that it was Gertrude and Stanley and their little ones…which, as you may know, are: Pippin, Dumplin’, Pyrtle, Aflac—and the last one is either Foie Gras (Jonathan’s choice) or Jack Klompus (Iwanski’s choice). Since Iwanski didn’t get a chance to name the other goslings—and the name Foie Gras is a little too cruel for my taste (sorry, Jonathan!)—Jack Klompus it is.

I was so happy to see them, that I stood there for a good fifteen or twenty minutes watching them plod along.

I’m going to bring my camera tomorrow, and hopefully they will be there again.

I feel like God has smiled on me today.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Of Friendship and Fricasse

Well, I didn’t feel like stabbing anyone today…so I guess you can say that I had a better day than yesterday!

Hey, have I mentioned that my good friend Jonathan is on a Julia Child cooking kick, and that he’s letting Iwanski and I taste-test the recipes? Yeah, dude, it’s awesome! For the past two weekends, he’s cooked up delectable French recipes from Julia Child’s book Mastering the Art of French Cooking--and apparently he wants to cook another recipe this coming weekend.

So far he’s made Boeuf Bourguignonwhich is like a beef stew—but to just call it beef stew is vastly underrating how good this stuff was. Even I—who have never been a fan of beef stew—gobbled it up like it was the last meal I would ever get to eat. Iwanski cowed out on it, too. My favorite part of the meal—besides the yummy mushrooms and pearl onions, which were extremely tasty—was that the beef was so MOIST! And anyone who really knows me knows that my number one qualification for food—especially for meat—is that it has to be MOIST. It could have something to do with the fact that I almost choked to death once on a piece of very dry bread, thus leaving me paranoid about choking for the rest of my life—but anyway…suffice it to say that the Boeuf Bourguignon was a wild success.

Then, this past weekend, Jonathan made Fricasée de Poulet a La’Ancienne (what Jonathan called on his blog “Old-Fashioned Chicken Fricasse with Wine-flavored Cream Sauce, Onions and Mushrooms.”) Cream sauce? Mushrooms? I’m there, dude.

And oh how good it was! Although Iwanski and I ate the Chicken Fricasse a couple of days after Chef Jonathan cooked it—and even though he had warned us that it wasn’t as good as leftovers as it was when it was freshly-cooked—we were not disappointed. The mushrooms were succulent, the cream sauce rich and delicious—and the chicken, of course, was MOIST! Hooray!!!!

I’m telling you, everyone needs to have a friend like Jonathan. Not only is he one of the nicest people I know, he’s also an outstanding cook who’s eager to share the delicious fruits of his labor with his friends.

I can’t wait to see what he prepares next!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

That Kind of Day

Did you ever have one of those days where nothing is really wrong, but everything seems really wrong? A kind of day when the slightest irritation makes you want to smack someone in the face?

That was the kind of day I had today.

And so now, I am having a beer.

The end.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I Feel Cheated!

This was me on Monday night, with Gertrude the Goose. (Photograph, courtesy of Jonathan.)

Tonight, I was talking to Jonathan, and we both realize that it had been a little while since we had checked on Gertrude…so after work, I headed over to her nesting area by the Chicago River.

And lo and behold…she was gone! And so were her eggs. And so was Stanley. All that was left was a pile of feathers and dirt and probably poop and egg fragments (It was hard to tell what was all in that pile—there were too many feathers strewn about).

I looked up and down the river forlornly, wishing that I’d been there to see the babies hatch. (At least I hope they hatched, and someone didn’t just mess with the nest.)

I have a hunch that it all worked out okay…especially when Iwanski confirmed after a quick internet search that goslings are mobile and can swim within a day of being hatched. (How ‘bout that?!)

Still, I feel cheated that I didn’t get to see Pippin and Dumplin’ and Pyrtle, swimming down the river with their proud Mom and Pops.

I expected goslings. I need to see goslings.

Thank God for Google images. (Aren’t they just the cutest?)

This weekend, Iwanski and I are going to take a long stroll on the riverwalk and see if we can see the real thing. There are not too many things cuter than little goslings swimming in a line behind their mama goose.

*Gosling photo credit:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Weekend in Cheeseland

This weekend, Iwanski and I took a trip to Wisconsin to visit my Mom & Dad…and we also packed lots of other visiting into the weekend. I AM TIRED.

Here are some highlights of our weekend in ‘Scansin:

--Stopping off for a quick walk on a nature preserve along the way and seeing a sign that said “Do Not Feed Bread.” (What would one feed bread? What does bread like to eat?)

--Enjoying wicked-good green curry and funny conversation with my sister Sheri and my hubster.

--Having a blonde moment wherein I realized why egg-drop soup is such a bright yellow color.

--Seeing the excited expression on my almost-three-years-old niece Nora’s face when we showed up with my sister Sheri at Nora’s day care, to pick her up.

--Following Nora down the hallway of her “school,” as she proudly showed us the way to her locker.

--Sheri telling me she had a present for me, and then handing me a package of string cheese. (Only in Wisconsin does one get handed a “present” of string cheese within the first two hours of your visit. But of course, I loved it—fresh Wisconsin string cheese bought from the local cheese factory is a thousand times better than the crappy way-too-soft string cheese you can buy at the grocery store.)

--Tasting some cheese curds that were also purchased at the local cheese factory, and happily realizing that they were still “squeaky.” (Fresh cheese curds squeak a bit in your mouth when you eat them—and believe me, it is yummy!)

--Somehow being convinced to try Nora’s child-sized sit ‘n spin (which my skinny sister Sheri has no problem riding on)—and then realizing way too late that there was no way I could get my fat ass on that thing. Then laughing hysterically and proclaiming it to be the “most embarrassing moment of my life.”

--Being captivated by Nora Lu’s cuteness as she played with her Dad and with us—I especially loved it when Iwanski played with her and made her laugh, as she ducked in and out of her little cardboard playhouse. (See pictures below.)

--Having dinner with my parents and eating yet more cheese with dinner. (Are you sensing a pattern here?)

--My parents sharing stories of how they first found out about square dancing, how long it took them to learn how to square dance, and how many interesting people and places they were introduced to because they had joined a square dance club. [My parents have square danced on two cruise ships, both in the Atlantic and the Pacific, and they’ve also square danced on the East Coast, the West Coast, in the Midwest (of course) and in Canada.]

--My Mom getting excited when her favorite “Lotto Girl” came on WGN-TV to announce that day’s Illinois lottery winning numbers…and finding out that both she and my Dad really liked the one lotto announcer because, according to my Mom “she always wears such interesting outfits, and she’s so smiley and upbeat.” (Have you ever heard of anyone being excited to see a lottery announcer before?—especially one from another state?!)

--Suddenly realizing that my Mom (who had not yet put away her Easter decorations) had bunny decorations, bunny knickknacks, and stuffed bunnies in every corner of the living room—and then going through the house and counting SEVENTY-FIVE (yes, seventy-five!) decorative bunnies in their house—not to mention three more of them on a decoration in the front yard. Iwanski and I laughing our asses off over the plethora of bunnies.

--Having a great conversation with my sister Mary about life, nature, and animals—and finding out for the first time that there is a sturgeon spawning season, just as there is for salmon. (Mary said it is supposed to start next week, when the water temperature finally gets warm enough—and she said there are some spots nearby where she lives, where you can actually touch the sturgeons as they lay their eggs on the rocks.)

--Visiting with my sister Cindy and her granddaughter (my great niece) Amaya. Amaya is almost two years old and full of energy and big smiles. I spent a couple of hours on Saturday following her around and playing with her—and man oh man, I had a lot of fun, but she wore me out! But she is sooo adorable and fun, so it was worth it. (Who else but an almost-two-year-old can find it hilarious when you say “vroom, vroom” while turning the wheels on an exercise bike with your hands?)

--Enjoying bratwurst from a “real Wisconsin brat fry” with my family. (In the spring and summer in Wisconsin, it’s very common to see brats being “fried” (they’re not really fried, they’re grilled—but the Wisconsinites call it fried) at a stand outside your local grocery store, with the proceeds going to a local charity. It smells wonderful and tastes just as good.) And of course, I ate some more string cheese with our brat meal.

--Seeing my sister Bonnie and my nephew Nick (who lives in the suburbs of St. Paul, Minnesota—but spent his spring break with my family in Wisconsin). Nick (who’s in first grade) showed us his “Spring Break Collage” and “Cereal Box Car” (a toy car made from a cereal box) that he and his cousin Michael (who’s in college) had made together, and then he proclaimed Michael to be his “favorite cousin.” I’m telling you, that really warmed me cockles, to see the fantastic friendship that had developed among the two cousins.

--Visiting the nieciest niece Stacy and her husband Nabil, and meeting their precious three-month-old daughter Nina for the first time. (Nina was a bit cranky, but still smiled and “talked” with us a bit.) Enjoying delicious chicken, bacon, & ranch pizza and cheese sticks (eek! More cheese!) with Stacy and Nabil, while Nina hung out in her little swing nearby.

--Driving home and realizing that I had lost our little cord that plugs our MP-3 player into the car stereo, which made Iwanski very cranky and “lecturey” about carelessness…but then a few hours later, Iwanski realizing that he had left both his MP-3 player and his sunglasses in the rental car that he had dropped off in the evening rental return place earlier in the night.

--Thanking the universe for “even-ing things out” as I offered to walk back to the car rental place with Iwanski, smiling all the way. [Luckily, he had also left the car door open—and amazingly, the MP-3 player and sunglasses were still there. Still, I was glad that for once, Iwanski was careless, too. (It’s not just me!)]

--Iwanski saying, “I just had my ass handed to me by karma.”

--Relaxing and recovering from a weekend of socializing, full of good memories that will last a lifetime.

And now, without further adieu, are some pictures of my adorable niecey Nora Lu, for your enjoyment...

Monday, April 5, 2010

They Have Names

Today, my friend Jonathan saw our neighborhood geese for the first time. He called me at work to tell me that someone had put some oyster crackers near the nest for the Mama Goose. So apparently I’m not the only one who likes our geese!

Jonathan and I have decided to name them Gertrude and Stanley. I have also decided that when their goslings are hatched, one of them has to be named Pippin. (I just like the name Pippin for a goose.)

Jonathan and I are also starting to worry about how Gertrude and Stanley will be able to get their babies down from that nest up in the planter. Somehow, they must know what they’re doing, though, right?

I can’t wait to see Pippin and the other little ones! (I told Jonathan he could name the rest of them.)

I know you all will be waiting with bated breath…so I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Mother Nature Surprises Us

There are signs of spring popping up everywhere here in Chi-town.

Last Sunday, Iwanski and I started out on our typical long weekend walk and were meandering across the Dearborn Street bridge. We were gazing down at the lovely Chicago River, sparkling in the sun, when suddenly I noticed that there was a goose sitting in a planter on the riverwalk, with another goose standing nearby.

“Do you think she laid her eggs in that planter?” I asked Iwanski.

“I don’t know,” he replied. “That would not be the best place for a nest.” (It is the riverwalk, after all—people walk down there often—and restaurants sometimes set up shop there during the spring and summer.)

It was hard to tell. Maybe the goose was just resting there momentarily.

This past Wednesday night, the temperature was a beautiful (and unseasonably warm) 75 degrees, and I said to Iwanski, “Let’s go take a walk and see if the goose is still there.”

So we walked over to the bridge and looked down on the riverwalk…and sure enough, there she was! Sitting there in that same planter—obviously sitting atop her eggs—with her mate swimming nearby. We were both surprised that they were still there.

We watched as a few people walked by her nest, and her neck swung out toward them as she let out a loud “hiss!” (It startled the people, who hadn’t even noticed that she was there.) But her mate barely moved—even though I could tell he was watching closely. I thought that was pretty interesting, and Iwanski speculated that perhaps she was defending her eggs from potential predators up there, while her mate was defending them against a water attack. Who knows? Perhaps her mate just didn’t take the people seriously.

The next day, Iwanski came by with his camera and took this picture of them.

We’ve stopped by and visited “our geese” a few times since then—and they are always in the same spot—although sometimes the male is away for a brief period of time—presumably looking for food.

“I wonder how long before her eggs hatch?” I asked.

“I don’t know—we’ll have to find out,” Iwanski said.

When we came home, we found out our answer, along with some more interesting facts about Canadian geese (from and For example:

--The gestation period for Canadian geese is 28-30 days. (I can’t wait to see those adorable little goslings!)

--They tend to nest on the ground, usually on a muskrat mound or other slightly elevated site, near water. They prefer a spot from which they can have a fairly unobstructed view in many directions.

--When egg laying begins the "Father" goose will stand sentinel watch nearby, but not so close as to give away the location of nest to a predator. (So that may explain why he didn’t react too much to the people—potential predators—passing by.)

--Geese mate for life and will stay together during all seasons.

--Geese will find a new mate if their mate dies or is killed.

--Geese return to the general area of their birth each year to mate and nest. Sometimes to the exact site, sometimes to a nearby pond or other body of water. (So we might see their “kids” there next year!)

I, for one, was fascinated to learn all of these things about our new neighborhood friends…and in a few weeks, I hope to see their little ones peeking out of the nest.

I love springtime…and even though I love living in the city, with its tall, impressive buildings and trains and museums and taxicabs, I’m also very grateful that there is still plenty of beautiful nature surrounding us.