Tales From A Hungry Life

November 24, 2016

10 Reasons to Be Grateful This Thanksgiving

by Maria Schulz

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

Did you know that being grateful is actually good for you? There’s scientific proof that being grateful can have a dramatic impact on your life—keeping blood pressure low, making your immune system work better, and helping you get more sleep.

That’s good news, because Thanksgiving Day can come with its own stresses. Maybe you’re having a big crowd over and you have a million things to do. Or, maybe you’ll be a guest and some of the folks you’ll be seeing annoy the living daylights out of you. Plus, with all of the food being served, this holiday can wreak havoc on your health.

Everybody loves roast turkey

Everybody loves roast turkey

So…instead of focusing on the things that will drive us crazy today or make us fat, how about finding things to be grateful for? Here are some suggestions.

Family can be fun

Family can be fun

  1. Family

Sure, not everyone is blessed with the perfect family. But come to think of it, is ANYONE? Find me the perfect family and I’ll show you a pack of Yetis with the same last name. Sorry, folks—this mythical family doesn’t exist. We humans are imperfect and tend to get on each other’s nerves. Still, there are ways around this. Is your wacky, forgetful mom bringing her world famous mashed potatoes to the table? Be grateful. Is your annoying, messy, but somehow-still-lovable son home from college? Be grateful. Is Uncle Harry smoking his disgusting cigar outside—and keeping his shoes on his smelly feet inside? Be grateful. You get the idea.

Get out there

Get out there

  1. Friends

Some of us rely on the kindness of friends to make our holidays special. Maybe your family is a pack of psychos or they just live too far away to spend the day together. If you want to spend it alone, that’s great. However, if you are miserable because you feel you’ve been rejected by humankind on this day of thanks, accept an invitation to dinner with your stand-in family—your friends—or go help others at church, a soup kitchen, a nursing home, etc. Don’t just sit there like a Debbie Downer crying over your sad, tiny bird. Get out there and mix with people. You’ll be glad you did, even if those people are watching an awful lot of football.

Don't be that friend

Don’t be that friend

3. You woke up today! Hey, if that’s not a reason to be grateful, I don’t know what is. Be grateful that you’re up and about. Go participate in a local Turkey Trot. Go to church. Smile. Today is a gift. Treat it that way.

Run, run, run

Run, run, run

4. You’ve got all of your marbles. Metaphorically speaking, that is. And if you literally can’t find your pack of marbles, I’ve got good news for you: you can go online and score a big Black Friday deal on some new ones.

I've got a lot to be thankful for

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for

5. Your kids gave you one of those “I’m Grateful For” Turkeys with wonderful things written on all of the feathers. Somehow, you managed to score ahead of the dog, the iguana, and a pack of Legos. Be grateful.

6. When all the cooking and eating is done, you can watch football. Or the dog show. Or you can watch the parade while you cook. The point is, you can do whatever you please. If you have to work today, make plans to celebrate tomorrow or Saturday or whenever you can be surrounded by those you love or at least like enough to challenge to a wishbone-breaking feat of strength.

Or you can make your own "I'm grateful for" list

Go ahead, make your own “I’m grateful for” list

  1. There’s pie! Apple, pumpkin, blueberry, lemon meringue. Why wouldn’t you be grateful?
Best Ever.

Best Ever.

  1. NETFLIX! If watching sentimental movies or football is not your thing, go for Breaking Bad or Orange is the New Black. Turkey-binging and Netflix-binging. Perfect together!
Red, white, and imperfect blue

Red, white, and imperfect blue

  1. We are Americans. We live in a country that is not perfect, but it’s our country. The Bill of Rights lets us practice our beliefs, pursue happiness, and complain thanks to Freedom of Speech. We aren’t perfect and we’re able to say so. That’s a pretty amazing unalienable right and I’m grateful for it.
Plus you can read whatever you want

Plus you can read whatever you want

  1. Laughter is free. Yes, your family and friends may do things that annoy the stuffing out of you. Grandma may eat food off your plate. Your best friend Gerry may bore you with endless football commentary. Your beloved dog may have just barfed blueberry pie all over your rug. So what? Chances are your Thanksgiving Day disasters will live on in infamy. Today won’t last forever, and those people and pets who are driving you crazy won’t be here forever either. Be glad you’re where you are right now and laugh as much as possible.
the muppet movie

They look happy

Here’s a bonus reason to be grateful today: even if you’re watching your weight, dessert on Thanksgiving is MANDATORY!

Where have all the cookies gone?

Where have all the cookies gone?

Recipe: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon clove

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup white sugar

1 egg, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup pure pumpkin

1 cup chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove together. Set aside.
  3. Use mixer (on medium) to beat butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until creamy. Add egg and vanilla.
  4. Turn mixer to low and add pumpkin. Slowly beat in flour mixture until dough forms. DO NOT OVERMIX!
  5. Fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Use a medium cookie scoop (or a teaspoon) and drop scoops onto baking sheet, two inches apart.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until edges start to brown.
  8. Remove from oven, let cool.

Enjoy!

So many reasons to be grateful

So many reasons to be grateful

So, what makes you grateful? What’s your favorite Thanksgiving treat? What was your worst turkey day disaster? Please leave a comment. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

November 17, 2016

12 Thanksgiving Ideas that are Fun for Everyone

by Maria Schulz

Popcorn and toast, anyone?

Popcorn and toast, anyone?

Thanksgiving can be tricky. Sometimes, it’s a day when families catch up, laugh a lot, and enjoy their time together. Other times…not so much. There’s always a fun story about a drunken uncle, a bossy mother-in-law, or a whiney friend who sucks the life out of the party by telling everyone at the table about his recent bout with hemorrhoids or scabies.

Let me tell you about my latest illness

Let me tell you about my latest illness

Most people I know are NOT going to have the quintessential “Kennedy-esque” game of touch football on the front lawn while their giant turkey cooks to perfection. Come to think of it, the Kennedys probably weren’t even that happy to be together, touch football or no touch football.

We look just like the Kennedys

We look just like the Kennedys

Whether you’re off to a large gathering or just a small, intimate celebration, it’s always good to have ice breakers and conversation starters on hand. In that spirit, I thought I’d share a few ideas to keep your special day from going off the rails. Here are some of my suggestions.

Ready? Here we go...

Ready? Here we go…

Twelve Thanksgiving Games that are Fun for Everyone

  1. Take Bets. How long will it be before Grandma tells you how she worked 12 jobs at your age and you’re a lazy loser? How many male relatives will fall asleep with their pants undone while they snore in front of a football game on TV? How many lumps in Mom’s gravy? You get the idea.
Get your game on

Get your game on

  1. Break out the board games. That turkey is going to take a while. Why not get in a quick game of Life? Uno? Scattergories? Pictionary? Truth or Dare? Who’s Most Likely To? Never Have I Ever… (or Would You Rather… if there are kids around)? Cards Against Humanity? You can keep it clean for the kids and have lots of laughs.
  1. Set up a Group Pool/Prize. Yeah, maybe Aunt Sally couldn’t care less who’s playing football today. But I bet she’ll care if there’s money at stake, and it will keep people busy while you cook the turkey. You can also bet on the outcome of the Dog Show, a corny holiday movie, or murder mystery. $5 per person and the winner doesn’t have to help clean up.
While you deep fry your turkey

While you deep fry your turkey

  1. Play Telephone or the Minister’s Cat. Yes, these are oldies, but they’re always fun.
  1. Go outdoors between dinner and dessert. Play Bocce ball or Running Bases—adults and children alike can use some fresh air. Walk the dog while you’re at it. And yes, you can even channel your inner Kennedy and play a game of Touch Football.
Run off that turkey dinner

Run off that turkey dinner

  1. Stay inside. Play Wii bowling, football, or Olympics. Go on Playstation and play Walking Dead, Batman, Just Dance, or Dancing with the Stars.
You too can score a "10"

You too can score a “10”

  1. Use your cell phone and download the app for HeadsUp. It’s really just Charades, but you hold the phone up to your head so that everyone else can see the word, and the other people in the room try to give you clues about it. You have to guess before time is up. It’s quick, fun, and very addictive. Hint: if you don’t have a smartphone, you could just write words on cards and hold them up to your head while everyone else gives you clues. Sometimes old school is the right way to go.
  1. Play “Two Truths and One Lie.” Each person around the dinner table tells everyone two things that are true about him or her, as well as one lie. If someone guesses the lie, you take a shot (or eat vegetables, pie, etc.)
Are we having fun yet?

Are we having fun yet?

  1. Another great game is What If? This app comes with fun what if/but then scenarios that a person has to answer. The results are usually hilarious.
  1. Plan a TV or Movie Marathon! Choose a holiday themed comedy like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles to get everybody laughing (who doesn’t like John Candy?). Or, binge watch The Godfather Trilogy or Orange is the New Black together. Your call!
Those aren't pillows

Those aren’t pillows

  1. Put a slip of paper with a question on it underneath everyone’s plate. Before you pass the turkey, ask everyone to pull out the slip and, one by one, read and answer the question on it. Depending on the crowd, the questions could be, “What are you most thankful for?” “What are you least thankful for?” “Where did you spend your worst Thanksgiving (hopefully the answer isn’t your house).” “What was your first girlfriend’s name?” “What’s the most embarrassing thing you ever did?” “What was your worst job—and why?”
Better than a Magic 8 Ball

Better than a Magic 8 Ball

  1. Experience Your Own Version of Karaoke Madness. You know you want to unleash your inner Beyonce. Go ahead, make their day! But don’t take this one too seriously. It’s always better if you’re not very good.

Recipes:

Thanksgiving Appetizers

FNK Flat Content; 3-Ingredient Thanksgiving Appetizers; Opener

Let’s eat

Find everything from stuffed mushrooms and deviled eggs to ricotta stuffed bacon wrapped dates, spiced pecans, and goat cheese with fresh dill. It’s the perfect way to set the mood for a fun party that everyone will enjoy.

Cocktails!

What I'm Thankful For

What I’m Thankful For

If you want to do drinking games or just have some fun cocktails on Thanksgiving, check out these recipes on Food Network. There’s a Pumpkin Pie Martini, Bourbon Negroni, Apple Toddy, Cider Punch, and dozens more cocktail choices.

I've got a lot to be thankful for

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for

So, what are your family traditions on Thanksgiving? Do you eat and then crash on the couch until dessert is served? Watch the parade and dog show? Watch football games in between bites of turkey? Do a 5K Turkey Trot? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Happy Thanksgiving!

August 6, 2016

This is My Idea of a Good Morning

by Maria Schulz

Everybody starts their day in a different way. Over at The Daily Post, they challenged bloggers to take a photo that says “morning” to us. Here’s one of mine.


The nearby pizzeria gets their morning delivery of Italian bread from the local bakery. You can smell the fresh bread from blocks away. There’s a coffee shop next door that’s another hot spot for the neighborhood. Freshly roasted coffee and egg sandwiches make it a delight to pass by.

My dog knows she’ll encounter some amazing smells in the morning, so she moves as fast as she can towards the stores. She is getting older now, so I know it’s a great day when she can walk all the way towards the sights, sounds, and people she’s always enjoyed seeing.

img_0010-1It’s a very good morning indeed!

Recipe: Eggs, Herbs, & Tomato Omelette


Make the morning even better with fresh organic eggs plus tomatoes and herbs picked fresh from the garden.

Ingredients

2 Eggs

1 tomato, chopped

Italian Parsley leaves, chopped

Basil leaves, chopped

Sage, chopped

Oregano

Thyme

2 tablespoons Olive oil (or Pam)

Cheese (Cheddar,mozzerella, or goat cheese, optional)

Spray Pam or add Olive Oil to heated pan. Beat the eggs and add them to the hot pan. When the eggs have begun to firm up, add the tomatoes, herbs, and cheese. After about two minutes, flip it and brown the other side. You can eat this as is or add it to a low carb wrap. You can also add broccoli or spinach if you like.

To read about how other bloggers spend their mornings (and see their photos), check out Morning at the Daily Post. Enjoy!

So, what’s your favorite way to spend the morning? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks, and have a great day.

 

March 16, 2016

March is Read-Aloud Month

by Maria Schulz

These days, families are stretched thin because we’re all very busy and very stressed. Do you exercise 3 or more times a week like you should? (Not always). Do you eat home cooked meals instead of fast food (I try). Parents, do you read out loud to your kids every single day? This one’s a no-brainer…except for many these days, the answer is no.

At readaloud.org, there’s a movement to help parents carve out a minimum of 15 minutes a day for reading aloud to their kids. Now here’s a revolution that I’m all in for!

Untitled

house_infographic_web

There was nothing better than cuddling with a book when my girls needed to wind down from an activity before naptime, in the bath (yes! You can get waterproof books and kids can act out the stories while splashing and playing), and of course, at bedtime.

Bookstack

Let’s read. And talk. And eat.

I knew it was good for them, but you know what? It was good for me too. I got the chance to discover what made them laugh, what interested them, and experience wonder at the world around us. It was fun to watch my girls discover the simplest things, from colors and numbers in the beginning to concepts like sharing, being kind, compromising, compassion, and empathy. Hey! Maybe we should read aloud to our politicians, too.

Many parents will say, “I’m just too tired and there’s no time to read. I’ll give my kids their iPad or Kindle Fire and they can read audio books. That’s the same, right?”

Wrong. It’s not the same. Children and parents forge bonds as they read together, and if you start reading to kids from they day they’re born, their brain will make more vital connections than children who don’t have books read to them. It gives them a bigger vocabulary and gets them ready for school, tests, and success. Yes, it even helps them succeed in S.T.E.M. classes (if you can’t read, you can’t learn).

High Stakes

highstakesforparents_infographic

These were the books that my girls enjoyed:

Pat the Bunny

Goodnight Moon

Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born

Muldoon

Rufferella

rufferella

Sing it, baby

Guess How Much I Love You

Where the Wild Things Are

My Somebody Special

C is for Cookie

The Cat in the Hat

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

The Rainbow Fish

The Velveteen Rabbit

the velveteen rabbit

The Kissing Hand

Winners Never Quit

Madeline

Detective LaRue

my somebody special

The best part about reading aloud? You get to act out the scenes and have fun together. To reap the benefits, you just have to do this 15 minutes per day. If money is tight, the library is free. Go once a week and stock up on books you can enjoy together.

Reading to your kids is just like exercising, eating right, and taking care of yourself. It’s hard to make the time, but when you do, you realize it was the best thing you did all day.

Recipe: Quick Breakfast Burritos

breakfast-burritto

Eggs are brain food! This breakfast burrito recipe looks delicious, but if you don’t think you’ll ever have the time to make this, prep ahead, omit whatever you don’t have on hand (I don’t usually have green chiles on hand and my kids won’t eat them anyway), and create a healthy breakfast that will send them off ready to learn. You can even make these ahead and freeze them. That way, all you have to do is defrost them in the microwave for 30-45 seconds, and go. P.S.: Pack a book with that burrito, for a truly brain-boosting breakfast experience.

So, did you/do you read aloud to your kids? What was your favorite book? What’s your favorite “reading moment” memory? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

February 5, 2016

Inspired by Eggs in a Basket

by Maria Schulz

I woke up this morning to more snow and the sinking feeling that shoveling was in my immediate future. Luckily, I read a post by my friend Beth at butterscotchblastoff with a recipe that brought me back to my Grandmother’s kitchen.

retro-kitchen

Like this, only bigger and pinker

I can see her now: my beautiful little Nonnie, in her pink frilly apron, cooking for me in her big pink kitchen in Port Washington. She had short brown hair and big brown eyes, framed by round glasses that she always wore. Her home always smelled of something wonderful on the stove: fresh bread, spaghetti and meatballs, apple pie, or peach spongecake.

Making_eggs_in_basket

How’s about cooking something up for me?

One of my favorite memories are of sleeping over and waking up to find my grandmother cooking breakfast for me. If Uncle Sal was there for the weekend and Uncle Don was home, Judy Garland, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra would be playing in the background as we waited for our meal.

MariaNonnieBandC177

My two grandmothers

My grandmother used to take a piece of bread, make a circle in it with the bottom of a juice glass, and put both pieces of bread into a hot pan with a dab of butter. Next, she’d crack an egg into the middle of the toast. When everything had firmed up nicely, she’d flip it (yes, even the round piece that had been cut out was cooked and flipped). She’d season it all with salt and pepper, put it on one of her pretty plates, and presto! Breakfast was served.

tomatoes and eggs

Hey, good looking

How could eggs be so delicious? My grandmother was a magician in the kitchen, and I would practically sit in the audience and applaud. There was lots of laughter around that table as we enjoyed our morning feast.

 

To boost up my morale before heading out into the snow drifts, I set out to make a little magic of my own. I did everything my grandmother showed me, but with inspiration from Beth, I added a twist: yellow tomatoes, a little more butter, salt, pepper, and basil. I added it to my eggs in a basket on top and on the side. You know what? It was delicious! I recommend it heartily.

Eggs in a BasketI think my Nonnie would approve.

So…what’s your favorite breakfast food? Best memory with Grandma? What inspires you when your get up and go has gotten up and left? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

 

 

 

June 3, 2015

I Like My Bicycle

by Maria Schulz

 

I like my bicycle

I like my bicycle

Remember the freedom and fun you had when you were a kid and you rode your bicycle?

I learned how to ride when I was three years old. My brothers (mostly worldly-wise and a few years older than me) decided it was time to teach me. So, they put me on top of the only bike we owned, which was clearly too big for me, and pushed me down the little hill that led to the alley behind our house.

I managed to stay upright by the grace of God (Yes! A miracle!), but began to panic as I reached the end of the alleyway. There was my brother Tony, waiting to catch me…but since I didn’t know how to use the brakes, I sailed right past him. One big crash and lots of tears later, I was officially a bike rider. My brothers congratulated me and I suddenly felt a whole lot better.

Still worth it

Still worth it

However, since there were only a couple of bikes in our family (there were a lot of us and no money), we had to share. So my actual bike-riding days were few and far between. As the 6th of 7 children, it was rarely, if ever, my turn.

I borrowed and begged as often as I could, and eventually, another miracle befell me. My friend’s mom felt sorry for me and gave me an old blue bike of theirs. I loved it! I rode it everywhere! I didn’t even mind that it was really meant for someone twice my age and three times my size. I could barely reach the pedals, but who cared? It was mine! How lucky was I?

My brother, Joey, eventually talked me into giving the bike to him for his paper route. In return, he wrangled a pretty lavender bike, with a banana seat with multicolored daisies on top, from one of his paper route customers. He put on a matching basket (I loved those multicolored daisies) and it was official. I had a bike of my own that I could actually ride without crashing, and it was pretty. I didn’t have to share it with my brothers because what boy wanted to ride a pretty bicycle? Life was good.

bowling

I rode that bike everywhere. Off we went to CYO bowling on Wednesdays; to sleepovers on Friday nights; to babysitting gigs; to King’s Deli on Bell Blvd. or C-Town on 48th Avenue. But I think my favorite place of all was my neighbor’s house.

Mrs. Murray was about the same age as my grandmothers, but you probably couldn’t find someone less like my family if you tried. She was a former Midwesterner who grew up on a farm. She didn’t have an Italian, Puerto Rican, or New York accent, was tall, and had beautiful white hair and piercing blue eyes. Her skin was almost translucent. She was like milk, whereas my grandmothers were more like chocolate milk. Both good for you, but definitely different.

 

Milk and cookies go great together

Milk and cookies go great together

I would ride my bike to her house most days of the week in the summer, stopping by for “just a minute.” Two hours later, when I was finishing up my lemonade and ladyfingers, we’d say goodbye and off I’d go again, racing away on my little purple bike.

I think I can ride today

I think I can ride today

The seasons didn’t stop me. Whether it was 100 degrees or 1 degree, I was out there riding. Mrs. Murray used to wave to me from her window as I dashed by, and told me later that she was laughing whenever she saw “that little parka-hooded speed demon whizzing by.”

Such a troublemaker

Such a troublemaker

My only kryptonite, bike wise, was snow. Even ice only kind of slowed me down, but then again, my brakes never really worked. The result was that ice didn’t scare me the way it should’ve.

Let's go bike riding next

Let’s go bike riding next

My love affair with my bike continued even after I had kids. I loved riding through the streets with my girls, racing to the park. We would reach our destination, then stop for a bit to swing, slide, and climb, until…it was time to jump back on the bikes and race off to the next park, wherever that might be. We would crash, and bleed, and cry a little (that was mostly me), but a little bandage and a kiss later, and we were off to new adventures.

Still worth it

Still worth it

I didn’t pay much attention to the toll that all that racing, sliding, crashing, and falling was having on me until my body started to rebel. “Enough” it seemed to say. It blamed my bike for everything. Soon, my bicycle and I fell out of love. I saw my orthopedist more and rode my bicycle less.

Are you a vampire?

Are you a vampire?

Suddenly, I abandoned my beloved bicycle for the other forms of exercise. The elliptical sang its siren song, and I was entranced…for a while. Don’t get me wrong. The elliptical (let’s call him Edward, as in Cullen…you know, the vampire?) was quite a looker. Big, impressive, and physically beautiful to behold, Edward offered his own particular charms to creaky old me.

Not the gym again

Not the gym again

But the magic didn’t last. I began to feel restless with Edward. My relationship with him felt static. We were going nowhere! It was always the same: the hum of the motor, the harsh, bright lights, the constant flow of sweaty people around us, the Kardashians on the TV mounted overhead. It wasn’t him, it was me. I needed more.

Together again

Together again

So, I wiped the cobwebs off my bicycle and we went out together again. We started slowly, because we hadn’t been together in such a long time. I didn’t know if I could trust my bike not to hurt me. But almost immediately, it was just like old times. The sun warmed me from my head to my toes, the birds sang in unison, and there was not a Kardashian in sight. My bike and I are an item again.

As I rode around my neighborhood and raced my husband down leafy local trails, the strains of an old Etta James song rang in my head. “At last…my love has come along. My lonely days are over. And life is like a song.”

At last

At last

Sun-kissed skin, windswept hair, legs that feel strong and steady, and hands held triumphantly off the handlebars. This is true love. If only Mrs. Murray could see me now.

Mrs. Murray never charged...and she even threw in cookies

Mrs. Murray never charged…and she even threw in cookies

Recipes:

Lemonade

Ladyfingers

It’s been a long time since I sat in Mrs. Murray’s sun-dappled breakfast room or on her neat, flower-decked patio, sipping lemonade and chomping on ladyfingers. It was the perfect ending to a long day of zipping around the ‘hood on my bicycle. Lemonade and ladyfingers always take me right back to that perfect place.

So, what’s the one thing you used to do that you’d like to do again? Do you love your bike? Which treat is your post workout favorite? Please leave a comment below and let us all know. Thanks!

May 13, 2015

Inspired and Amused

by Maria Schulz

Sometimes, it’s hard to be inspired enough to do the things you love to do. Take writing, for instance. There’s nothing I enjoy more than sitting down to write a new story, blog post, or even a letter to a friend. But there’s also nothing more frustrating than finding your inspiration tank on empty, and no matter how hard you crank that ol’ engine, it just doesn’t start.

When I get to this point, I try different ways to jump start my creativity:

1. Read the Entertainment section of the newspaper. I usually find something funny or outrageous that riles me up and makes me want to write. Think The Kardashians, the Oscars, or Dancing With the Stars (as ridiculous as it may be, I still love Dancing With the Stars). Gwyneth Paltrow is always good for a laugh too, especially when she says things like how easy moms who work in an office have it compared to afflicted actresses like her who must work on a set. Sure! I know lots of office workers who get paid $10,000,000 per job.

Always inspires

Always inspires

2. Tap into pop culture. I tried to watch the Bruce Jenner special, but I started to feel like he was a guest I’d invited into my house, and now he’d overstayed his welcome. The show was too long! We were told the same thing about 700 times. I think it’s great that his family supports him. I find it surprising that Kris Jenner was NOT okay about his desire to change (think of the PR potential there!). My biggest gripe with the show was that it was dull. I think there must be lots of much more interesting individuals going through similar challenges out there that would love to talk about it.

writer's block

3. Read inspiring quotes. Lots of great authors have wrestled with this problem long before I started complaining about it. Mostly they say: park your butt in a chair and just start writing. So here I am. What do I do now?

exercise

4. Exercise. There’s nothing quite like walking around in the bright sunshine to make you feel better about the world in general. I let my dog choose our path (yes, I know: Cesar Milan would tell me that I am not being a true leader. Who cares? My dog has more imagination than his dogs). At the end of the walk, I’m happier, my dog is happier (and sleepy), and I can sit down to write.

How to be awesome...

How to be awesome…

5. Take a class. There are lots of web-based seminars and workshops that will help you get motivated and inspired, even if they inspire you differently than originally planned. I recently took a class online called something like “8 Great Traits of The Terrific, Talented, and Totally Awesome.” It started out with a story about a dog in a power suit who was apparently having a crisis of confidence and ended up by teaching me great nuggets of wisdom, including: Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Creative!, Go For It! , Don’t Stop Now, Embrace Your Focus, Your Creativity is a Fountain…Let it Flow, Reject the Naysayers, Make the Future Pay, Can an Ant Move a Rubber Tree Plant? and You Are Worth Loving! By the end, the dog was very confident, and I was laughing very hard. It left me inspired, amused, and wondering how I could get a job teaching courses like that. Thank goodness it was free.

Like this dog. Only in a suit.

Like this dog. Only in a suit.

6. Talk to your Kids. There are so many times that a simple conversation with my girls has given me an idea for a story or a blog post. Their take on gym class, crazy classmates, summer reading lists, and life in general takes me back to my own days in school, cracks me up, and inspires me. If you can’t remember something hilarious that happened in school when you were a kid, you just aren’t trying.

These kids playing dodge ball look way too happy

These kids playing dodge ball look way too happy

7. Cook. Making something delicious that my family enjoys is my quest, and it can be as simple as finding the Holy Grail. You’re never quite sure you’re going to succeed, but you feel compelled to keep searching. I have delighted and tormented my family with my cooking on many different occasions. My girls are still talking about the Eggplant Fontina Gratin dish I made years ago that they both hated with the intensity of a thousand blazing hot suns.

Hot, hot, hot

Hot, hot, hot

My husband, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed the Chicken Saltimbocca that I made one night after I tried it (and loved it) in an Italian restaurant in Manhattan. He keeps buying all of the ingredients, just in case I want to make it again. So really, it’s a win/win since I’m creating memories that will be cherished for a lifetime (my kids love making fun of my cooking).

 

Plus, when I cook, I find that ideas come to me about that story I’m writing, or I figure out how to fix the problems I’ve been having in a chapter, or even get an idea about what the cover of my next book should look like. So whether dinner is the bomb…literally…or a home run, I am inspired.

chicken saltimbocca

Recipe: Chicken Saltimbocca

Here’s that dish that my husband enjoyed so much. It’s very easy to make and it’s delicious too. Enjoy!

So, what inspires you? What helps you be creative when the old well runs dry? Which recipes are a hit–and which ones are a miss–with your family? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!