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:

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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

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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.

Work-Related

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!

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.

Quick Like Bunnies!

I’ve found an awesome WordPress blog/site called, “The Daily Post.”  It’s a spot that gives little writing challenges for people to follow.  They provide questions/seedlings to get you thinking and writing.  Exactly what this little blogling (kind of like a fledgling, but bloggier) needs!  Here’s a question:

“If you could slow down an action that usually zooms by, or speed up an event that normally drags on, which would you choose, and why?”

The one event that I would speed up if I could would be the time between being freed from an activity and getting into the warm confines of my home.  That is perhaps the longest drag of the day for me, no matter where I am or what I am doing prior to hopping into my car.

Generally, I can be found at one of my workplaces.  Yes, I’m a fool librarian with 1.5 jobs at different libraries…but, I love my job.  I am excited about it; I have passion and ambition that I’ve gained in the last 5 years that I haven’t had in any other job…ever.  What that means, though, is that I am always “on.”  Because I am so enthralled and involved in my day, I very rarely stop and take breaks…often, you’ll find me talking about work when I’m NOT there because it’s such an ingrained part of my life.  I let this job light a fire under me, and I have a hard time getting away from it simply because I don’t often actively seek to be away from it.

I also, wonder of wonders, thoroughly enjoy running errands.  Errand has such a negative connotation, but in the end, I’m always getting things crossed off of my to-do list.  I am a shopper in general, but the fact that I’m out at Target or the like and enjoying myself borders on strange. Grocery shopping is acceptable…because I need to eat.  Stocking up the toilet paper and the body wash are important because, well…you know what they say about cleanliness. I get some weird sense of accomplishment that I am pretty sure originated back when I was a kid in school.

I love being out and about and lively…that’s what it all boils down to.

But my home, oh my home!.  It’s not much: one bedroom, one bath, second floor. It lacks central air (window units FTW), and the tub and I are in a perennial battle for control of the drain.  The hardwood floors are original, and the windows are a tad bit drafty…but, those are things are charming, not hindering. That’s the place I get to play Food Network and cook things “a la Hovanec.”  It’s the place where my hard work is always appreciated (by me, the sole inhabitant and heir to the throne).

My couches, DVR and TV are always ready and willing to accept me.  My Valerie Bertinelli lamp and the pillows I bought YEARS ago just to put on my very own first couch are there.  I fall into the nooks and crannies of my little oasis and get comfortably lost there, just reading, napping or laughing.  I have THE best coffee table whose top rises up and is perfect for dinner and a movie, or for playing board games with Roy.

The whole home-thing is so much more than a few walls that you pay a rent or mortgage for. I realize that now.

That drive, though.  Whether I’m 20 minutes away or 1 hour away, that time in the car is quite unbearable.  I’m always ready to get into relax mode, and driving is a pretty intense thing for me.  Sometimes I’m running late. I can be a bit of a speed demon, but always with good intentions.  I can hate waiting at a particular light for a long time.  But, when you’ve got something as wonderful as your own home waiting for you, who wouldn’t want the time to move more quickly?

What about you?  What moment or activity in the day would you speed up or slow down?

The Grand Decision, or My PeBloWriMo

I love November.  It’s a great time to consider what we can do (and how we can accomplish) to rejuvenate our lives.  It’s a season of ending for the weather, and for me personally, it’s the ending of my current birthday year.  On November 20th, I turn 33.  For those of you who don’t know, 33 is as close as I will ever get to my lucky number 333.  I realize this, and I am taking it to full advantage.  I’ve had an amazing 32nd year, and I like to think that I could not be happier with where I am in life than I am at this moment.  But, I am the type of person who is constantly looking for what’s next and how to get there.  I like to take on personal challenges and make changes. This is vastly different than it was when I was younger.  I hated change before…I daresay that I was afraid of it.  But, as I’ve gotten more mature and had the havoc of change thrust upon me, I’ve started to thrive upon it.  I am that weird person who gets a bit nervous…but then does things anyway.  It’s pushed me to make some major changes and decisions in my life.  I’m on a mission to explore a few new adventures and to consider other alternatives. With endings, though, come beginnings.  I’m ready to usher out an ending and welcome a new beginning and a new challenge.  Many of you may know that November is host to an initiative to get those people who are interested in novel writing to start exercising their muscles…better known as  NaNoWriMo (I hope I got all the funky capitalization correct there). Now, I’ve never had the desire to write a novel…read them, yes.  Wrap myself up in one on a comfy couch?  Of course!  But writing one…not me.  I don’t know that I am creative enough for that.  But, I do love writing, and I used to do it fairly frequently when I was younger.  I think my LiveJournal from back in the day finally died an internet death somewhere. I’m searching for better ways to channel and handle stress and creativity (which, very often, work in tandem when it comes to me) outside of some older habits, so I’m thinking that a blog might be an excellent way to get this going. NaNoWriMo is a cool method for gaining the habit of writing, but I am going to challenge myself to write a blog post per day for the entire month of November, and then maybe beyond (no promises).  I’m calling this challenge my PeBloWriMo or Personal Blog Writing Month.

No, I’m not trying to make money.  To be honest, I don’t know that I’d hope to have a single reader. Currently, my goal is to have these post so that people can hold me accountable for reaching my post per day goal.  My plan is to try and expand the writing, harness the creativity and learn a thing or two about blog production. So, that’s it.  Check back every day for the next month and watch as I figure out this whole blog process, myself and quite possibly a fun time this month.  And maybe beyond.  But I’m not making any promises.  Except that, we will all be entertained…in some way.