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!


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.


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.