We Go Together Like…

It’s almost too easy to identify why we allow some people into our lives.  We know they are there for moral support, or because of family ties being so…binding. But, what about those people who you have in your life and are bonded to that are just not like you at ALL?  Has someone ever looked at the two of you and noted how they can’t believe you’re friends?

Let me first point out that not all family ties are binding beyond sharing a surname or DNA. Some people in the world make up their own family of friends and compatriots who love and support them in the same way as a family. That’s one of the most beautiful things about the human race, I think–choice. You get to choose who you will bond with and stay close to.

One person who is the polar opposite of me in many ways is my sister, Nadine. We grew up in the same house, with the same parents and the same rules, but have many differences. I could sit her and mention all of the things about her that are different from me, but that’s not my goal. My goal is to point out the things about Nadine that keep us bonded as sisters as well as friends:


–Nadine is always duckface ready…another way we’re different.

1.  Nadine makes the best facial expressions I have ever witnessed in my life.

My sister is a woman of few words, for the most part. She is without a doubt the strong silent type, but she is far from non-expressive. I can tell exactly what my sister is thinking by the way that she moves her eyebrows or her lips. She and I have many inside jokes that have no words. They are simple facial expressions or dance moves.  Also, if you can crack her up…you’re good.  🙂

2.  My sister is not ever on time for anything, ever.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “How could this be something that keeps you bonded to your sister?” Save for the fact that I can be a little time challenged myself when it comes to my weekends or gym activities (sigh), I acknowledge the fact that my sister always ALWAYS will stay late. She’ll be the person to stay and help you clean up after a party; she’s the person who will help you in the kitchen while others chat in the living room. Nadine, even though she’s not the first person to say it like I am, is the type of person who lets her actions speak for her. If she loves you and wants to make you happy, she does it.  She doesn’t ask for a lot of praise about it…she just does those things.

3.  Nadine is blatantly honest.  

My sister will tell you if you have something in your teeth, if your fly is down, or ask what the heck you were thinking when you bought that shirt?  She’ll ask me, “Are you sure that’s what you want to buy?”  because she knows that I suffer from buyer’s remorse more often than not.  At least if she’s asked, she’s done her job. Being the person who is always honest isn’t an easy thing to do.  She’s got to break things to people that they might not want to hear. I value that honesty in my sister.

So, who’s the Oil to your Vinegar?  Who’s the Pickles to your Ice Cream?  Who is the person you shouldn’t go well with…but you couldn’t live without ’em?


This is the real essence of our friendship right here.


Happy Birthday, Sesame Street!

As you may have seen floating around on social media and news sites today, it has been 45 years since Sesame Street debuted! Words won’t be able to adequately describe just how wonderful this show has been over the years, but I can say I’ve experienced at least 33 of those years watching Sesame Street.

As the oldest cousin on one side of my very large family, and the second oldest on the other, suffice it to say I did a LOT of babysitting in my time.  When Parker was younger, he had a long-lasting Sesame Street phase, and he even had the toys to go along with it. The Sesame Street app was the first one I ever paid for, and we sang the Alphabet Song (“A is for apple you eat one every day….B is for the birds who love to fly away…”) ad nauseum. And, for your viewing pleasure, here is a picture of Parker feeding Ernie to a giant dinosaur when he was about 2:


We wondered why he was always losing Ernie.

I can recall Sesame Street before Elmo, and I know who Rosita is today. The breadth and depth of Sesame Street has known no bounds in terms of character creation. I found myself, on more than one occasion, sitting down and watching Sesame Street with my young cousins, my nephews and nieces. I’d be lying if I said it was only to continue whatever activity we were doing at the time. I watched Sesame Street because it’s an easy way to be transported to somewhere much, much better than where you are at the moment.

When I was earning my undergraduate degree in education, I remember having some conversations centered around the idea that not all play has to be structured around learning. We need free play to develop imagination and problem-solving skills. I don’t know about you, but Sesame Street was definitely a place that not only taught some fun lessons, but taught some really hard lessons to hear. They deal with racism, divorce, death and adoption. Sesame Street has dealt with sharing and acceptance and, in one of my very favorite feature length films, a bird who was a runaway. This little show filled with puppets, people and songs doesn’t shy away from topics, but makes them survivable for children of all ages.

If you’re looking for a way to celebrate with Sesame Street, check out these awesome links, or follow the #45SesameFacts hashtag to see what people are saying!

PBS Newshour’s The Rundown Blog

Hello Giggle’s Awesome Celebrity Visits to Sesame Street

The Hollywood Reporter Lists 10 Reasons Everyone Loves Sesame Street

And of course, my very favorite reason for watching Sesame Street, Super Grover 2.0!

image via muppet.wikia.com

image via muppet.wikia.com

Success Story Sunday

Ahh, Sunday. It’s so hard to say goodbye to the weekends, even on the ones where I’m working. While I love the field I work in, I have learned the value of preserving one’s sanity.  Today, when I get home, I’ve got a cozy apartment, an awesome boyfriend and a Bears game ahead of me.  I just can’t wait to get there and just…be.  Seriously, one of my favorite times of the week is that moment where you get to just rest, reflect and disconnect for a little while.

Today, I’m just putting out a short post to remind myself of all of the great things that happened this week:

Family Related 

1. My awesome nephew has learned to burp on command.  One of my favorite things about this kid is his creative streak and his desire to laugh it out.  He isn’t perfect, of course no child is, but he is so perfectly HIMSELF.  And, that in and of itself is a major accomplishment.  He’s got a great disposition, and I love that he asks a million questions and has so much energy to spare.  He also loves to send AunJenn Snapchats, so it’s a highlight to get to see him doing these things even though I am farther away from him than I would like.

2. I, for the first time this season, get to sit down and watch a Bears game in REAL TIME.  I’ve been DVRing the games to watch when I get home, but it’s just not the same.  As a rabid fan, it has been very challenging not to get to engage in what’s been a long-standing family tradition for me. But, today, TODAY, there’s a night game that I can watch when I am off of work.  It will be great fun to get to do my armchair quarterbacking without knowing the outcome of the game!

3.  In two weeks, my wonderful little goddaughter Carley will be baptized.  I’m so honored and excited to get to have the honor of being her godmother!  I asked if I could buy her baptismal gown, and after sending pictures back and forth with her mom, the gown FINALLY came this week from Etsy.  I love the site, but man, it can be scary waiting for someone to hand craft your goods when you’re on a deadline.  I was really worried there for awhile.  You know with kids everything fits differently, so you want it to be comfy for her. But, her mom said that it arrived, was in good shape and looked awesome.  It’s always great to invest in those pieces…who knows, maybe one of our awesome friends will have a little girl to baptize in it one day! Hopefully, we’ll get some adorbs pictures and we’ll show off all of the seamstress’ gorgeous work.


1.  Received the news that I have been selected to present at a library staff-centric conference called Reaching Forward.  I submitted an idea to do a presentation that was a “grand tour” or e-library media.  It’s one of those practical things that everyone can use a refresher on how to do. I’ve participated in a few group presentations in the past, but this will be the fist one I am doing all for myself and by myself.  This will be such a great learning experience for me professionally, and I am so excited to get working.

2.  A dear friend of mine, Erica, asked me to join her team applying for a program called ILEADU.  It will give librarians the chance to create a library-based (and grant funded) technology projects that embody 21st century technology advancement.  I think it’s going to be a challenging process, but I’m sure that we’ll have so much fun getting together and putting these ideas out into practice. 🙂

Anyone else out there got a Sunday Success Story?  Hopefully, my beloved Bears are going to go out and earn a victory today…and not make me have to do a Monday Brood!

But I Can Explain!

When you reach a certain age, it’s almost expected that you’ve seen a specific cannon of movies.  There are some movies you just HAVE to have seen…Star Wars, Annie, The Godfather, Lord of the Rings, Gone with the Wind, The Birds, etc.  It took quite awhile for me to sit down and watch a few of these…I saw The Godfather because my dear friend Amy insisted one afternoon when we were in our 20’s. Many others I’ve seen just because they seem like an excellent idea. Some, though, just don’t call to me in the same way. Most would advise seeing them just for the sake of seeing them…and I can understand that to a certain extent.  You’ve got to have a well-rounded background to talk movies, right?  Well, I’m here to admit that I haven’t seen a single Star Wars or Lord of the Rings Movie.

Let me give you a moment to gasp, because here comes another knockout punch:  I have no real desire to do so.

I can explain, I swear!  These are movies that just never came up as something I had to watch.  I was so busy exploring other off the wall titles that I just didn’t pick up some of the movies that some would consider cannon.  I went my own way; I was also a child of habit.  I’d have my same stand-by faves to watch (and, for the most part I still do.  Give me anything Wes Anderson or off beat with a good soundtrack, and I’m entertained).  But it all really started on my childhood Friday nights.

I can honestly say that for a long while, I’ve considered myself a movie buff.  When I was young, my family’s Friday night ritual was a pizza from Fasano’s in Bridgeview, IL (STILL the best thin crust pizza, might I add) and then stopping at the local video store for a few VHS tapes. It was cheap, easy and always a fun experience.  Lots of times, my sister and I would have our cousins sleeping over, as we both had a cousin who was close to our age.  My mom would order the “Hovanec Special” (extra large half cheese half sausage, mushroom and onion with an order of tomato bread), my dad would pile us all into our van and we’d be on our way!

At the video store, my sister, cousins and I would go to the two very same sections: Comedy and New Releases.  We were there so often that the manager knew my dad and would put the new things aside for us to choose from first.  (That, really, is just a Charlie Hovanec perk.  That man can talk to any person about any old thing and make you feel like you’re his BFF for life).  My cousin Natalie and I would almost always make it a point to take home Back to the Beach which starred Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello and Lori Laughlin.


-via IMDb

I don’t remember why we loved this movie so much, other than it was a feel good beach movie about a girl who wanted the freedom to date someone her parents would never approve of.  Then, of course, there was a surf battle and Annette and Frankie saved the day.  Why did a 10 and 12 year old love this so much?  I’m not sure, but suffice it to say that my awesome cousin Natalie bought me this baby for my birthday last year, and you can bet I’ve watched it since then.

My sister and I were famous for loving our Cabbage Patch kids, so you can understand that as we got older, and the 80’s never really took itself too seriously, we found ways to continue loving these toys without looking too “babyish.”  We all know that when you’re a kid, not looking like a baby is the most important thing to your childhood pride.  The Garbage Pail Kids was a movie that starred some very scary-looking and gross versions of the Cabbage Patch kids that were the rage of the 80’s.  The plot is basically unbelievable, includes some singing and dancing life-size babies with big heads and as many grotesque bodily functions as one can pack into a movie.  Oh, and one of the characters has the head of an alligator.


-via IMDb

I bought my sister this movie last year for Christmas, and let me tell you that when we sat down to watch it recently, I could not remember what the heck I thought was so awesome about it!  But, something about the movie did make me smile and reminisce remembering the video store trips on Friday nights.

I can’t remember when those trips ended.  My family moved away from the Justice area a long, long time ago, but it was over much before that.  I believe it was when I got a job and started working on the weekends.  My family was still ordering pizza and hitting the video store (I’m pretty sure that’s what we’d call it whether we were renting a VHS tape or a Blu-Ray), but the togetherness and the sleepovers were just not a thing we’d get to do.  I realize that part with a bit of sadness, but I believe that not remembering WHY something ended means that what you DO keep are the awesome memories that these things happened.

Tales for Jenns Past…

I get the feeling that Fridays are good days to do what I’m going to call “Q&A Fridays.”  I’m going to look for questions that I can answer in future posts, so if you have any, let me know!  I’m taking suggestions.

This week’s thought provoking question:  What advice would you give you a year ago? 

Hindsight is always 20/20, so the answer to this question might seem like an easy one.  You can look back and remember the things that were worth it as well as the things that weren’t.  The things that you shouldn’t have done and should do again are obvious.

So, Jenn of 2013, here are a few things that you should take into consideration:

1.  You’re worth it.

It’s so easy and obvious to those of us who are nurturers by nature (not cause I hate ya…old school rap pun right there) to put other people’s needs before our own. It’s so much EASIER for us to put someone else’s needs first, to support others and offer yourself up to be a salve for their wounds. There are givers and there are takers in this world, and we need both types to survive as a collective human race.  But, we also must have the strength of mind and the courage to say, “This isn’t good for me.”  It’s a hard phrase for us Jenns to utter, but this past year, I’ve uttered it more than once.  So, Jenn of a year ago, say it, believe it and know–You’re worth enough to put your needs before someone else’s. Your heart might break a little bit, you might have to do a little exploration, but dude, you’ll be fine.  It’s an okay thing to do, and no matter what happens in the end, you’ve got your own piece (and peace) of mind.

2.  You’re a risk taker.  I like you. 

Liking yourself is essential to surviving this next year, Jenn.  You’ll be faced with people and places who will judge you, look down upon you and delight in that fact.  Remember that you’re the person in control of your own destiny here, lady.  You get to steer the ship and drive the bus. Don’t be afraid to try things that someone else might be too afraid to do.  Often, their comments stem from the fear that they’re too afraid to do what you’re going out and trying.  Stand up and be counted, but be thoughtful about it.  Use your “thinking cap” and consider: Will it help?  Will it hinder?  Will I feel good being associated with it?  If you can answer these questions, you’ve found the value.

See, the trick is to remember that when you take a risk, always be prepared for the consequences.  Know that you might fail; it might turn out to be a total disaster, and you could be totally overestimating the awesomeness of the outcome.  Then, though you may have to look a little harder to find it, the return on your investment is the knowledge of what NOT to do again.  Spin it until you find the positive and remember what Capote said, “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”

3. You’re made up of flaws and flauntable qualities.  Deal with it! 

As someone who’s always open to critique and criticism, you would think that it’s easy to hear those things about yourself.  It’s a part of being a good employee or a good coworker to take ideas from your teammates and evaluate.  But, when it comes to your personal nature, it can be really damaging.  But, here’s the thing oh ghost of Jenn past, those little flaws make you who you are.  You’re an imperfect constellation of flaws, flauntable qualities and personality.  When you realize the need to accept the good with the bad just as easily.  You’ll stumble, and you’ll get behind the eight ball.  But, you have the awesome privilege of waking up tomorrow and trying your hardest again tomorrow.  This is the long haul, lady, not a footrace.

Overall, advice to Jenn circa 2013:  You’re doing a pretty damn good job, girl!  Don’t change an action, but have a good attitude and response in your back pocket as often as you possibly can. Be your own champion.

And, don’t buy so many shoes.  You’re not going to wear half of them anyway. 🙂

Jenn 2013 approves.

Jenn 2013 approves.


Now Eat THIS….

Well, let me begin this post by expressing my anger for WordPress post scheduling. Twice now a post I’ve scheduled has not made its way to you, dear blog and readers and not known about it until I log in to write the next post.  This is SEVERELY unnerving for someone who keeps her ducks in a neat little row for the most part.  So, let me give you the short but sweet version of the blog you SHOULD have gotten yesterday!

Thursdays are now known on my blog as Now Eat This Thursdays!  I love food, and I’ve had my challenges with it.  But in the past year, I’ve really made a thoughtful attempt to improve my eating and cooking habits.  I’ve been diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease, so following a Gluten Free diet has become very influential in this turn for the healthy.  It’s very easy when you’re living on your own to eat cereal or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But, neither of those things are good food staples…once in awhile, of course! (I’m not a sadist for cryin out loud).  Healthy, fresh and GF are my most important focuses when it comes to cooking now.  I’m also a proponent of extra sleep, so making things in a family size quantity and then refrigerating/freezing them in smaller, lunch size containers keeps me in bed for an extra few minutes on my 6 days of work that require a lunch.

In order to accomplish my goals, I turned to one of my favorite social networking sites, Pinterest, for many a food inspiration.  It’s been so great to share recipes, ideas and factoids on that site.  If you haven’t tried it out, please do the best/worst thing you will ever do for yourself and sign up for an account.

Here are a few things I’ve made and really, really enjoyed lately.

Click on the title of the section to get taken directly to the site responsible for both these images and the recipe!

Pumpkin Spice Puppy Chow

Image via Gimme Some Oven

Image via Gimme Some Oven

This treat was a great twist on a classic favorite for me.  I used Rice Chex cereal for this recipe, and they are Gluten Free!  Of course, tis the season for all things pumpkin spice, so all I had to do was add a bit of pumpkin pie seasoning.  I did, though, adjust the recipe to use half regular chocolate and half white chocolate chips because I’m not generally a fan of white chocolate.  Many thanks to the bloggers over at Gimme Some Oven.  Visit them and pin the recipe to your Food boards!

Crockpot Chicken with Apples and Sweet Potato

Image via the Stockpiling Moms

Image via the Stockpiling Moms

This was one of my favorite dinners of the week!  I have a small crockpot that I use whenever I can, and this treat really spoke to me because I happened to have all of the things in the house already!  I really wanted to use some honey crisp apples that I had in the house as well, but I was a bit too nervous with this recipe. It called for so little liquid–just 1 cup of applesauce and 2 tsp. of apple cider vinegar.  Just to be safe, I added some butter and a cup of water.  The result was a delicious stew-like dinner whose leftovers I’ve been happily chowing down!  I ate this dish plain, but it would be great served with rice or a nice noodle.

Slow Cooker Chili

Image via Cooking Classy

Image via Cooking Classy

So, I also unabashedly made this one for Roy and I to have last Sunday for dinner.  I’ve always been a great chili chef, but I didn’t have a solid recipe for a crockpot.  I went to this recipe and was not disappointed!  I added a few more onions and a bit more garlic, because that’s how I like my chili.  One ingredient I hadn’t put in my chili before was cocoa powder, but it really added a great layer of flavor!  I’m also a fan of serving chili with noodles on the side and cheese and sour cream for toppings.  We stopped at my local market and picked up a fresh made cornbread to avoid having to make any of our own, and let me tell you, it was a great pairing with the chili.

Pepperoni Pizza Cauliflower Casserole

Image via IBreatheI'mHungry

Image via IBreatheI’mHungry

 If you’ve ever seen people saying that you can substitute caluiflower for all of the starchy things you miss as a Celiac’s patient, you’ve probably been doubtful.  That is…until you try it!  The cauliflower tasted  perfectly starchy and held up as well as any noodle or potato would have.  This recipe reads like it can be served as an entire meal, but after eating it for a meal, I’d go with it as a side dish.  I substituted turkey pepperoni, and I could see using sausage in the future as an option, too!

Moscato Raspberry Punch

Image via The Pampered Jes

Image via The Pampered Jes

This punch is fantastic for a brunch or lunch.  It’s sweet and easy on the gullet.  You can’t go wrong with this as your go-to drink!  We made this for a patented “Girly Night” where my friends and I leave kids and significant others at home and..end up talking about kids and significant others. 🙂

Well guys, there you have it!  If you’re on Pinterest, look me up and let’s share some more awesome recipes!

A Rose by Any Other Name…

As you were growing up, did you ever find yourself hearing the same words coming out of your parents’ mouths over and over?  My mom is best known for her, “I know you’ll make the right decision.”  The cunning of that woman, am I right?  For years, this little phrase manipulated me in the best way. When I was younger, it trained me to stop and think, “What would my parents say?” As a young adult, I’d hear her mom voice in the back of my mind saying these words, but rebellious spirit pushed that right on out of me. Now, I find it somewhat comforting; being a real-life, full-fledged adult, my mom has used this phrase to express her support and her confidence in my decision making skills. That might be a blog idea…a whole list of the top Bonnie Jean-isms.

My dad, though, had a few gems of his own. The one that influenced the title of my blog, The Hovanec Hotel, was one that I heard him utter most during my high school and college years. I am the oldest child in my family. What that means is that, essentially, you are the guinea pig for your parents. Come off it, parent readers…you know it’s the truth! As I had jobs and a social life (and I was one of my few friends who had a car and enjoyed driving), I was out and about from the age of 16. Then, after college, moving back in with my parents for a short time was a super shock to the system…they had to figure out how to be mom and dad to a person who could DRINK. That was also a major sticking point for my dad, but we’re over that now…11 years later. He was famous for saying that his house now felt more like a hotel where, “people fall in and fall out of this place at all hours.” The Hovanec Hotel became the moniker for my family’s home in far south suburban Illinois. We’ve used it as the address for parties; we’ve even got a motto now (“Together is the nicest place to be”).

via DaveBloggs007 on CreativeCommons.org

via DaveBloggs007 on CreativeCommons.org

I created this blog as a part of a class I was teaching at my job. I wanted something with alliteration, and something that truly identified the blog as something about me. My blog is not just about work; it’s not just about a specific concept. I’m writing this (and keeping it publically available), because I want to be able to share the things that make me who I am.  What better way to pay homage to the place I started out than naming my blog after it and them?

The tagline, “All Things Jennified” is something that I’ve made up. It’s the spot that gives a bit of my personality. I was an English Language and Literature major in college, so I’ve always said that gave me license to create new words at whim. Maybe this is a bold belief, but hey…progress, man.  Jennified, if you’re seeking a definition, would mean: “Ideas, beliefs and things loved, admired and defined as awesome by someone named Jennifer.”

So, there you have it! That’s where I came from, and I’m pretty darn convinced that I’d smell as sweet by some other blog name and tagline.

The view while I was driving from my home in the north suburbs of Illinois to my parents' house in the far south suburbs.  Kinda makes it worth the trip.

The view while I was driving from my home in the north suburbs of Illinois to my parents’ house in the far south suburbs. Kinda makes it worth the trip.