Tales From A Hungry Life

January 25, 2013

Mayans, Memories, and Manicottis

by Maria Schulz

Several months ago, I wrote a post called “My Bucket List.” I felt prompted to write it since the Mayans predicted that Armageddon would strike on December 21st, 2012. Here we are in January, so I’m guessing that the Mayans got that wrong. I never really expected the world to end, but what better way to motivate myself? Here’s a list of what I accomplished, what I didn’t, and what I just forgot about.

1. Hiring a personal chef.

Originally I said I wanted to hire a French chef, but then I realized that I don’t really like French food, so that was out. The second part of this Bucket List dream was hiring a classically trained Italian chef. I said that I wanted a little old Italian lady who was about 80, looked just like my grandmother, was possibly related to me, stood about 4 feet tall, and would teach me how to make manicotti from scratch.


Luckily, my cousin Eleanor reads this blog and called me.

“Are you talking about me?” Eleanor said.

“Yes! How did you know?” I replied.

“I’m 80 years old, look just like your grandmother, and I’m related to you. But I’m not only 4 feet tall!”

Eleanor emailed me a list of ingredients and we made a date. I arrived at her house, ingredients in hand, ready to learn my grandmother’s recipe.

Eleanor whipped up the batter and then showed me how to make the manicotti. After a few examples, she turned the pan over to me.

“Now you do it,” she said.

This is the part of my life where I feel panicky, because I immediately think of my dreams. Why you ask? Because in my dreams, disaster often ensues when someone says, “now you do it.” That’s because I’m dreaming of jumping from an airplane, hang gliding, changing hay into gold, or attempting to walk on water. The results are never very good. I had to catch my breath there and remember that this was real life, and despite what my husband and children say, I really can cook.

My first manicotti was a little too thick, but soon I was making manicotti like an old pro. We made about 32 of them and then Eleanor showed me how to stuff each one so it had the perfect amount of cheese.

“Now the sauce,” Eleanor said.

Usually I make my own sauce, but we agreed that bottled sauce would do the trick just fine. So we poured a little on the bottom of a tray, placed our manicottis in the pan, and then poured some sauce and parmesan cheese on top.

While we wrapped up the trays for transport back to my house, Eleanor and I shared stories about our relatives, and she told me what she was like when she was younger and how she met her husband Bob.

I was particularly glad to learn how to make manicotti because my own grandmother never taught me. When Nonni hit 70, she proclaimed to the world that she was “retired,” and refused to cook for anyone. So it was a gift to have Ellie teach me how to make my grandmother’s recipe and share all her stories with me.

Unfortunately, Ellie wouldn’t agree to come cook for me on a permanent basis. But I did get 2 nights’ worth of dinners out of it! Bonus.

2. Hire a personal trainer.

After learning that personal trainers cost a lot of money and do helpful things like scream “DO YOU WANT IT? DO YOU REALLY WANT IT?” at you while you strain to lift 50 pounds over your head, I decided maybe a personal trainer was not the way to go.

Can you really bend like that?

Can you really bend like that?

Besides, thanks to many years of tumbling down stairs, crashing my bike, getting kicked in gym class and falling off the monkey bars, I got to meet a different kind of PT: the Physical Therapist, or what I like to call the Personal Torturer.

The PT would encourage me to turn in directions that are now physically impossible for me, and when I lay crying on the table, he would say helpful things like:

“Are you hurt?”

“Are you having trouble?”

“Tell me what hurts?”

“Can you breathe?”

I would respond:

“Yes, I am hurt.”

“Yes, I am having trouble.”

“Everything hurts, that’s why I’m here.”

“The shooting pains where you keep touching me make breathing impossible.”

There were times I think I would have been happier to see the Grim Reaper with his scythe then I was to see my PT with his bungee cord.

When I finally graduated from PT, I joined a local gym and got a real Personal Trainer. On day one, he had me do a stretch that he thought would be perfect for me.

“This will really help open your back!” he said.

The next things he said were:

“Are you hurt? Are you having trouble? Tell me what hurts? Can you breathe?”

I see great things in my fitness future. That is, if I survive.

3. Start my own talk show.

Math tool & potential weapon

Math tool & potential weapon

This one never got off the ground, although I did have big plans for it. I wanted to interview Sister Felicity and ask her some tough questions like:

“Why did you put that boy upside down in the trash can just because he threw away the donut you gave him?”

“Do you really believe that hitting me with a yard stick helped me learn pre-Algebra?”

“Did you learn how to lift small unsuspecting children by the neck from Darth Vader?”

Unfortunately, Sister F. has sworn off television. It seems she tried out for American Horror Story but lost out to Jessica Lange. The producers said Sister Felicity was just too scary for the part.


Now that my hopes to land Sister Felicity are dashed, I thought I’d try to get someone else who just might be desperate enough to say yes. After watching two long nights of his interview with Oprah Winfrey, I’m thinking that maybe Lance Armstrong would agree to answer some of my hard-hitting questions.

I think Oprah expended a lot of energy trying to get Lance to realize how upset he was to have lied and cheated, while also destroying the lives of everyone who came along and said, “but wait, he is lying and cheating.”

Um, Ms. Winfrey…I don’t think he’s sorry for what he did. I think he’s sorry he got caught. He seemed mildly amused by the stories of all the people who he sued, drove out of cycling, and bankrupted, as if his only regret is that he can’t hang up a framed jersey to commemorate it.

These are the questions I would ask:

“You mean you beat cancer and you still filled your body up with that junk?”


“What do you regret more, that photo of your 7 Tour de France jerseys that you tweeted to the world to show your defiance to the people who ultimately stripped you of all 7 wins and banned you from the sport for life, or that video clip of you saying, ‘I’m sorry some people just can’t believe that dreams come true.’ “

“Be honest. You did call Betsy Andreau fat, didn’t you?”

Lance says he’s most upset that he can’t participate in any sanctioned sports, but I think I have the perfect solution for him. If you read my post Super Juiced, you’ll know that I would like to have a special, all-drugs, all-the-time Olympics. I think instead of a flaming torch, they could carry giant syringes. Lance could be the standard bearer.

4. I’m going to bring lots of great reading with me.

My brother Chris was disappointed that I mentioned lots of great books I got for Christmas in my last post, The Next Big Thing, but forgot to mention the one that he gave me. But don’t worry! Now that the world didn’t end, I intend to read that GK Chesterton book.

I also intend to start poring over my favorite intellectual magazines, including this one.

I'll get to him in a minute

Really makes you think

5. I will try to complete my own book.

I have been working on this book for so long, I’m thinking of asking to have Chapter 1 engraved on my headstone.  I will have to change this bucket list item to: I will publish my book. I may never get on any bestseller lists, but so what.

6. I’m going to brush up on my “how to survive under impossible odds” movies to get some tips.

I never did watch The Terminator or Cape Fear because I don’t really enjoy watching people kill one another. That’s sort of why I didn’t enjoy visiting the Physical Therapist. I did get to watch Terminator 2: Judgment Day last weekend when I was at the gym. I only watched the first 25 minutes, so all I saw was Arnold searching for John Connor.

terminator 2

 I forgot how funny I thought that movie was, or that there was a time that I liked Arnold Schwarzenegger.  I probably enjoyed it because I only watched the first few scenes, and no one was dead yet. Plus that terminator/cop who is hunting them both down was just perfect for the part. I wonder if he ever worked again, in something other than his gag cameo in Wayne’s World.

7. I never did get a conference room full of people from my past so that I could tell them what I really thought of them.

I thought Liar, Liar was hilarious, but I also understand that life is not a Jim Carrey comedy. The people I have met over the years have better memories then elephants. No way am I going to line them up and yell things like: “You’re fat! You smell! You wear a toupee! And you’re a LOSER!”

So here's what I really think....

So here’s what I really think….

Although I’m sure it would be fun (for me), people tend to get mad when you do those things. I’m not in Catholic School anymore.

8. I was going to rip off all those pillow tags that said, “DO NOT REMOVE THESE TAGS UNDER PENALTY OF LAW.”

BREAKING NEWS: all of my pillows are tag free. This was perhaps my greatest accomplishment.

9. I am going to team up with my friend Suzanne to create a trail blazing sitcom.

This has not happened yet. We are still working on the GED storyline. I think we should work in the idea of time travel too. Maybe my GED students can jump through the space and time continuum by climbing the gym rope to reach a new dimension. I never actually saw anyone climb to the top, so this seems like a plausible place for the wormhole to be.

10. I want to become a member of the Paparazzi.

For some reason that escapes me, Kristin Stewart would not take my calls or agree to an interview. She probably read this blog and decided that I didn’t have any credentials and/or I might just be scamming her.

Sort of like that Notre Dame football player, Te-O, or Jell-O, or whatever his name is. You know, the guy who thought he was in love with some person he never actually met (they only “talked” on line) and then he found out she died? Oh and then he found out that some other guy from Hawaii was scamming him and the great love of his life never really existed at all? And now he’s on all the talk shows (except mine?).

Sing it! Or not.

Sing it! Or not.

I might just have him on my talk show, along with Beyonce, who is dealing with the fall-out of possibly lip-synching the National Anthem!

My first question to both of them would be: WHO CARES?

Perhaps this is why no one returns my calls.

11. I want to create a time machine so I can meet famous people who touched my life.

In her comments on my Bucket List post, my friend Suzanne pointed out that following Jesus might get me in trouble. At first, I denied this, but after further contemplation (I like to contemplate by eating pizza rolls), I realized she was right.

I’m sure I would have infuriated the Pharisees and the Roman Centurions by making fun of them, told the little children that came to see Jesus to “pipe down” and “get lost,” and possibly offended Jesus by saying things like, “Oh so YOUR FRIEND LAZARUS gets to come back from the dead, but not my friends?”

Maybe Suzanne has a point.

In any event, I still would jump right on that time machine and audition for The Rockford Files. I don’t have to be the prostitute with the heart of gold. Pretty much any role would do, as long as I wasn’t Angel’s girlfriend, I was Jimbo’s girlfriend, I had a permanent recurring role, an actual home in Malibu near Johnny Carson and my own trailer with a refrigerator filled with pizza rolls.

I want to meet Jim and Rocky

I want to meet Jim and Rocky

That sounds reasonable to me.

12. I would start my own “little people’s” basketball league.

Again, my Little Person’s National Basketball Association (LPNBA) may not be up and running, but the dream just refuses to die. (For me, anyway). I haven’t exactly been inundated with offers from anyone under 5’4”.

Mostly, people who are my height say they’ll play for me, but only if they get to be the center. But I’m the center! What’s the point of starting the league if I can’t play center?

Some people have the craziest ideas.


Ellie’s Manicottis

This recipe goes back to the 1950’s.  My grandmother taught Eleanor and she shared it with her friends, and like the Herbal Essence commercial from the 1970s, they shared it with two friends, and so on and so on and so on.  It has been passed on to probably hundreds of people. In Franklin Square it was known as “Ellie’s Manicotti”.

Stuffing for shells:

Large ricotta (32 oz)

Medium mozzarella

3 eggs

Grated Parmesan Cheese (add as much as you like)

Sauce (home made or jar; your choice)

Salt and Pepper to taste

To make the shells:

1 egg

1/3-cup water

1/3-cup flour

Place shell ingredients in the blender until the flour is absorbed and let it sit until the froth disappears.

Use a paper napkin to coat your frying pan with oil.  In the old days, my grandmother insisted you use a cast iron pan; Ellie now uses Teflon.

Pour just enough batter into the hot pan so that the bottom is covered; you don’t want to put in too much or your manicotti will be too thick. When the manicotti is formed, flip it over. Slide it out and repeat the process until your batter is gone.

After they have cooled, stuff them with your filling. Roll them up. Place some sauce on the bottom of the tray, lay your manicotti over it, and then cover with remaining sauce. Sprinkle Parmesan Cheese on top.

Place tray in 425-degree oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly.


So, Hungry Lifers…have you accomplished any of your Bucket List items lately? What would you say to Lance Armstrong if you had the chance? Where would you go if you could go back in time? Do you like pizza rolls and manicotti? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!



  1. I think you’d do fine following Jesus around. First of all he had a gang of crazy rough neck guys always hanging around. It would be a little like your growing up. Secondly he had a bunch of crazy girl friends hanging around, like Mary Magdalene, sort of like when you were growing up. Thirdly, he was always arguing with the religious leaders and they were always trying to kill him and his friends. Sort of like when you were growing up. Fourthly, he never turned down a dinner party, wedding or really any party that I can see. In fact he liked his wine, food and good discussions. Sort of like when you used to sit down to dinner every night when you were growing up. So maybe, just maybe you would have fit in with Jesus and his friends very well.

    Comment by Bglou — January 25, 2013 @ 4:49 pm | Reply

    • I think you’re right. Maybe Jesus would think I’m funny. And maybe he’d buy my book!

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — February 2, 2013 @ 11:24 am | Reply

      • Sure He would but even He would have to wait for you to publish it.

        Comment by Bglou — February 2, 2013 @ 12:39 pm

      • I don’t think He minds. Good things come to those who wait.

        Comment by talesfromahungrylife — February 3, 2013 @ 11:33 am

  2. First, I need to purchase the bucket. Then, I’m going to get started on the list. So glad to hear you snipped off those pillow tags, Maria! Love the “Chapter 1” on your head stone, but I’m banking on you completing and publishing your memoir. It’s a great story!

    Comment by Lisa — January 25, 2013 @ 7:00 pm | Reply

  3. I laughed all the way through this.Glad I stopped by.

    Comment by lexiesnana — January 26, 2013 @ 8:57 pm | Reply

  4. Maria, what a list. I think you should knock it down a bit. The talk show thing would end up with most of Hollywood going on hiatus when you called. Your blunt questions would work for the public but the stars would head for the hills. Having someone to cook for you every day sounds good but after around two months they most likely will be repeating the dishes by adding parsley. I don’t see you as following Jesus, you’re not into the hippy thing. This is more Chris’ style. Also. I fear the idea of you being a paparazzi. The way they have to move to get the right shot might have you run over or trampled. The writing part you do well and if you keep at it you will soon get it off the list.

    Comment by Tony Lagalante — January 27, 2013 @ 12:36 pm | Reply

    • I think I have more problems then blunt questions. I was wondering if I could hold my talk show in your basement? And I don’t know about the cooking getting boring. I enjoyed the menu at my Hurricane Hotel in Bayside. I think I would be an excellent disciple, but I’d probably get into a lot of fights with Judas and Peter. Do you really think I should forget the paparazzi gig? Ok then. I will keep writing.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — February 3, 2013 @ 11:38 am | Reply

  5. Just finish the book already! Seriously would it kill you to go home right after bowling tomorrow and finish it? Your book is going to be our inspiration for the sitcom that will be the most talked about since the Wonder Years. Also I think you are being very selfish because you are holding back other people’s bucket lists. Who are we to judge Lance Armstrong? Maybe it was on his bucket list to willingly deceive the world and eventually be on Oprah to tell everyone. I think bucket lists trump all. Why is it in my world that the fat comment bothers me the most too? You would be a good Jesus follower, your dad is right . It would make for a good sitcom, maybe we have to re think this. Actually that could be one of the time travels. Angelina Jolie (I mean you) has to go back and find out if his face really was on the cloth that Mary Magdeline wiped him with. That was her right? (Sometimes I drifted during class, I was too focused on the claws coming out of the nuns hands)
    Then we can transport you further back and see if really no one would give a pregnant woman a place to stay for the night. Would someone really let her leave on her donkey? We will incorporate that into you trying to get a room at the Days inn near LaGuardia or something. Thanks for all the entertainment as always!

    Comment by suzanne — January 28, 2013 @ 10:56 am | Reply

    • Suzanne you are right on. And she has to do all this before I expire so I can play myself! God**** It!

      Comment by Bglou — January 28, 2013 @ 12:26 pm | Reply

      • Ok I will work on her! It’s only right you get to play yourself.

        Comment by Suzanne Tavel — January 28, 2013 @ 8:02 pm

      • Of course he gets first shot at it!

        Comment by talesfromahungrylife — February 3, 2013 @ 11:32 am

    • Listen, if Lance is going to be on my talk show, I have to get him to talk! It’s not bad enough that he called Betsy Andreau crazy and a liar, but did he need to call her fat? And I’m pretty sure it was Veronica who wiped Jesus’s face, not Mary Magdelene. Dad, jump in here any time and let us know. I don’t blame you for drifting during religion class, Suzanne. How do you think I ended up in the closet? Thanks for the encouragement and the comments. You, my father and I should have a good time at the book signing.

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — February 3, 2013 @ 11:43 am | Reply

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