Tales From A Hungry Life

April 23, 2020

Notes From The Pandemic

Maria Schulz

fashion woman notebook pen

Are You Taking Notes Too? (Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com)

March 4, 2020

The talk here at the office is that we may be allowed to work from home in the next week or so. There are a bunch of cases of the coronavirus in NYC and we will have to work from home in order to stay safe.

I think I’ll like working from home.

March 12, 2020

Today, I started working from home. I’m set up in the kitchen. I can look out the window here (there is no window by my desk at work) and see the birds and the trees. There is so much beauty to enjoy! I’m happy to be home and safe.

They say we will be back in the office on Monday after the offices are cleaned.

img_3096

So Much Beauty To See!

March 13, 2020

Just checked email…seems we are going to be working from home for at least the next few weeks. What a relief.

Cases of COVID are exploding now and many people are dying. New York is in for a long, tough siege.

Meanwhile, Spring is just beginning. I love watching the birds and squirrels in the backyard. It’s great having a window to look out of all day long. I feel very blessed.

March 19, 2020

Working from home is so much more productive! I get a lot done and love sitting at my kitchen table. Husband and daughters are also working from home and taking online classes. It’s so great to be together every day!

I’m also reading a lot in my spare time. I’m reading classics and suspense books at a furious clip! Also writing more.

Great Stories

Yes, I still have my copy!

March 25, 2020

Husband has been complaining that his hair is getting too long. Wants one of the girls or me to cut his hair. I don’t know what I’m doing but how hard could it be? There’s no sense waiting for the barber when one of us can cut his hair for him.

shallow focus photo of barber s pole

(Photo by Caleb Oquendo on Pexels.com)

March 29, 2020

Hubby couldn’t take it anymore. Took out the razor and scissors and asked me to cut his hair. I would’ve asked the girls but they were smart and hid in their rooms. I’m trying to talk myself into it. What’s the worst that can happen? I’ll do it and I can add it to the list of things I now know how to do.

March 30, 2020

Well, that was a disaster. Hubby is happy with his hair cut, but I guess it’s good he can’t see the back of his head because I gave him two bald spots. I just hope he doesn’t use the mirror in the bathroom to check it. The girls keep laughing whenever he walks by. This morning, I woke up in a panic. WHAT IF IT DOESN’T GROW BACK????

person using hair razor on man s hair

Not Actually My Husband And Therefore, Not My Fault. (Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com)

April 1, 2020

Husband got curious and used the mirror in the bathroom to look at the back of his head. He knows about the bald spots. He’s being a very good sport about it, but I suspect he is not happy. He has asked me to let him cut my hair. Um…no thank you.

April 4, 2020

Almost out of food. Older daughter has begun going to the supermarket and getting supplies. Alternately uses online shopping to get groceries. Younger daughter takes dog out for play time and long walks. Hubby and I are working hard. Having everyone home has really been a blessing.

sub-buzz-19629-1514915034-1

Zucchini Noodles and Meatballs

Our cooking has become more creative as we face meat shortages and can’t find certain produce items. I think of my mom a lot because she was a master at making food stretch. She had nine people to worry about – I only have 4!

April 12, 2020

Happy Easter! Can’t do a big family get together, so we ironed the tablecloth and put out the good dishes for ourselves. We were able to find a ham, so we cooked that along with potatoes and vegetables. I even baked a cake and we decorated it.

We were done eating in 20 minutes. It’s just not the same.

Chocolate Cake.JPG

We Did Enjoy The Cake Though

April 15, 2020

My hair is a disaster. Husband has offered to dye it for me, but I fear he’ll make me look like Ozzie Osbourne by the time we’re finished. (True love or revenge? Not sure).

I did find a box of hair dye in my usual color in the bathroom. I think I’ll do it while he naps. Gonna go for it!

shallow focus photography of boy

Not me. (Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com)

April 16, 2020

Luckily, the dye wasn’t so old that it made my hair fall out or turn pitch black. It’s a nice medium brown color so I don’t look like Dumbledore any more. Husband says that what I need now is a hair cut. He claims to have watched a video on how to cut a woman’s hair and once again offered to cut mine. Still, NO.

Older daughter went outside to enjoy this beautiful sunny day and she saw a hawk swoop down and pluck a baby squirrel from a tree. MOTHER NATURE IS A CRUEL BITCH. Nature is so overrated!

black hawk soaring

A Warning To Squirrels Everywhere. (Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com)

April 21, 2020

Today we had black skies AND HAIL! The winds were shrieking, the thunder was booming, and great flashes of lightning zigzagged across the sky.

WHAT’S NEXT? LOCUSTS???

Work has been crazy and stressful. I miss my coworkers!

Here at home, we are together EVERY SINGLE DAY. It’s impossible to have five minutes alone!

closeup photography of green grasshopper

Hello, Locusts! (Photo by Egor Kamelev on Pexels.com)

I don’t want to cook or bake again. Not today, maybe not ever.

Older daughter is still traumatized about the hawk incident.

Younger daughter feels traumatized by being stuck with us.

Hubby should have been traumatized by my hair styling skills, but his hair has grown back and he says it’s time for another hair cut.

WHY DOES HIS HAIR GROW BACK SO FAST?

Oh well, I’ve got some extra time on my hands. What could possibly go wrong?

Recipe:

The Best Bolognese Sauce

The Best Bolognese Sauce.jpeg

So Easy and Delicious!

We needed to make a pound of ground beef stretch to feed the four of us and we didn’t want burgers, so we made this Bolognese sauce and put it over spaghetti. It was delicious! Easy to make, and the whole house smelled great. Try it!

So, Hungry Lifers, what “notes” from the pandemic would you send? What funny or crazy things have happened to you in the pandemic era? Please leave a comment below and let us all know. Thanks! Stay well and be safe.

April 15, 2020

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Maria Schulz

As a native New Yorker, sarcasm and pessimism come as naturally to me as breathing. Now, as a native New Yorker in the midst of a pandemic, it’s even harder to be optimistic some days. I worry about my family and friends, and grieve for those lost to the virus.

It’s not always easy to stay positive in the current climate, and with a nod to Eric Idle’s song in Monty Python’s “The Life of Brian,” I set out on a quest for some good news and the bright side of the current situation.

dawn sunset beach woman

Find the beauty all around us. (Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com)

Along the way,  I read an article in The Washington Post about “Positive Things”. It inspired me to search for – and actually see – the beauty that still exists in the world around us. Here are some things I’ve noticed and some things I’ve tried.

Connecting With People Is Still Possible

In the age of social distancing, being friendly is more of a challenge, but not impossible. I smile and wave (from a socially distant place) to my neighbors, yell across the street to others about how big their kids are getting, thank my mail man from the window and wave/get a big wave back from the sanitation workers while I walk my dog. A big smile and a friendly wave does the heart good. Try it!

Good Dog

Dog Therapy with my good dog.

Playing Isn’t Just For Kids

Pre-pandemic, I often felt sorry for my young dog because I thought she might like to be with a family that had small kids who would play with her. But now that I’m around with time to spare, I am running and playing like a kid again. I suggest Dog Therapy as the perfect remedy for worried adults everywhere. Cat Therapy works too, if the cat allows it.

Productivity Is Overrated

Move over, Marie Kondo. This Maria is here to tell you that cleaning out closets and throwing away things is a drag. If that actually brings you joy, then by all means, go to it. But for me, I get no joy whatsoever in watching the sun rise and set while I clean out a drawer. I’d rather be outside playing with the dog or looking at photos of a pink Super Moon. For those of us who are productivity-challenged in that area of life, don’t worry. You’re not a monster. Now go do something that makes you happy.

Treat Yourself

Use that bath bomb you got for Christmas, bake cookies, or read a classic book. Use your kids’ arts and crafts to paint a mug or make pipe cleaner flowers. Drive to the beach and take photos of a sunrise. Figure out how to prank your brother from afar. Do whatever your creativity tells you is rewarding and fun, and don’t let your inner critic keep you from doing it. Honestly, your inner critic is a jerk. Tell him/her to shut up!

Apple blossoms

Call Someone You Love

Or FaceTime them if you prefer. I used to call my father, brothers, or friends when I was commuting to or from work. But since I’m working from home, I carve out time from lunch or before/after work and I call and chat. We laugh, share stories, and are reenergized. Give it a try.

Write a Letter to Someone Special

One of my oldest friends recently sent me a long letter and I was delighted! It’s so much fun to get a letter in the mail that doesn’t have PAYMENT DUE stamped on it. I could hear her voice in my head as I read each page. I’m busy writing her back, and I hope she enjoys my letter half as much as I enjoyed hers. Maybe surprise an old friend with a letter and make their day.

Take a Letter, Maria

Enjoy Dinner With Your Family

We are all together again, and we actually have nowhere to go afterwards. The result is that we spend less time rushing through dinner and cleaning up, and more time talking to each other and eating a leisurely meal. Win/win.

Keep Smiling MM quoteJPG

Notice the Beauty All Around You

One of the things I’m enjoying most is watching the flowers and trees bloom. It’s a hopeful sign and one that I’ve often missed in the past. The birds are singing, the squirrels are running everywhere, and the bunnies are back. It makes me want to stop and take photos each time I’m out walking the dog.

 

Sicilian Roasted Chicken

Recipe:

Sicilian Roasted Chicken

This is a really delicious chicken dish.  My family loves it, and I love it because it’s so easy. The only things I added were Italian seasoning and Onion powder to the spice mix, and after it baked for about 20 minutes and the skin started to get crispy, I took the pan out and added chicken broth so the chicken didn’t dry out. I popped it back into the oven to cook for another 40 minutes. So good!

Cherry blossoms

So, Hungry Lifers, what have you done lately to stay positive? Please leave a comment below and let us all know. Thanks!

April 8, 2020

10 Entertaining Things

Maria Schulz

sakura tree

Good morning everyone!

I promised in last week’s blog post that I would try to think more about what has surprised me, delighted me, and made me happy during this dark and difficult time.

Despite grim statistics everyday, mounting death tolls, and fear lurking in every visit to the grocery store, there have been some good things too.

Yes, that’s my sunny optimistic streak talking. I’ve told my frightened inner child to shut up for a few minutes.

10 Things That Keep Me Entertained

The Best Brownies

Oreo Stuffed Brownies

  1. I am baking again. Did you know that many psychologists say that you can reduce anxiety and depression by baking? Read all about it here. I didn’t realize that when I was a kid, but back then, I baked all the time. I baked coffee cake for my grandmother and uncles, cookies for my brothers, and pretzels for my father and mother. Brownies were a big hit with my family then, and not surprisingly, with my family now. A fudgy square of goodness helps the day seem a little less scary.
  2. I am watching what I eat. Yes, literally. I was doing really well before this all started, and now that I’m home, I find myself tempted daily by the old siren song of Doritos, chocolate chip cookies, and yes, brownies. So what do I do? I count calories and let myself have a treat a couple of times a week. Otherwise, when I emerge from sheltering in place, I will look like a bear emerging from my den.
    People-cheering

    It’s As If We’re All Together…6 Feet Apart

  3. I turn to technology for social interaction. FaceTime puts me in touch with my Dad, brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, and friends. It lets me share a drink with a friend I usually go out to dinner with, or lets my daughters and me play Head Bands with my bestie and her daughter. We laugh a lot and feel connected. I’m not sure we would’ve done that on a normal day, but I’m glad we did it now.
  4. My husband and I take turns cooking. There is no stressed out WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO FOR DINNER conversation, and there is no running around trying to turn hay into gold. If we don’t have EXACTLY what the recipe calls for, we improvise. Yesterday, my husband made a rice bowl with black beans, peas, basmati rice, and cut up hot dogs caramelized in barbecue sauce. We hit it with some lime juice and voila! We had a really weird looking but somehow delicious, cheap dinner. Now that was surprising.
    yoga_collage

    Can you really bend like that?

  5. Yoga is fun!I was always resistant to yoga because when I tried to do it in the past, I thought it was boring. So, I turned to my niece (a yoga instructor) for some beginner’s tips and she sent me some Youtube links to an instructor who specializes in making yoga fun and doable. And guess what? It was fun and I did it! In fact, I’ll come back for more!
  6. Walking and Playing With The Dog Is Good For Her…and Us. Before all of this, I would be stressed and rush my dog through our morning walks. But now, I get up early, run out the door, and really enjoy playing with her. Plus, later in the day, my husband and girls take turns running and playing with her, and at night, my husband and I take her out together. We’re enjoying all of the exercise….but, sometimes, I wonder if my dog is exhausted and wondering when we’ll all go back to work again.
    Happy Puppy

    Be the person your dog thinks you are

  7. Everything is blooming. When I’m rushing back and forth to work, sometimes I have to nudge myself to recognize all the signs of spring. But now that my pace has slowed down and I’m stuck mostly indoors, I can see what I might have otherwise missed. Despite everything, the trees are blossoming and the flowers are blooming. This has filled me with hope and inspired me to dream of better days ahead.
  8. My Writing Muse Is No Longer MIA. Yes, my desire to finish all of those books I started and catch up with the characters I’ve left in the lurch is strong again. I finally have the energy and desire to get back to it.
    writer's block

    Where did you go?

  9. I Appreciate My Husband and Daughters.Yes, we also drive each other crazy. But at a time like this, you really get to appreciate your family member’s strengths. It’s good to have time to spend together…even if we don’t always realize it.
  10. Laughter Gets Me Through. I had to stop watching the news because it’s so upsetting. Instead, my family and I watch comedians like Brian Regan, John Mullaney, and Tig Notaro. Or, we watch There’s Something About Mary, The Wedding Crashers, or Support Your Local Sheriff (and when we want drama, it’s The Great Escape every time). You didn’t think I’d get through an entire post without mentioning James Garner, did you?)
    The Scrounger

    Great movie

Here are some great stress-baking (or anytime baking) recipes for you to enjoy.

The Best Brownies!

Salted Pretzel Brownies!

Oreo Stuffed Brownies

So, Hungry Lifers…how are you keeping yourself busy and finding hope during these unprecedented times? Please leave a comment below and let us all know. Thanks!

April 1, 2020

Go Wash Your Hands

Maria Schulz

person washing hands
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

Hello everybody!

Sorry I’ve gone MIA for the past couple of years. Life gets in the way sometimes, and then other times, you get stuck indoors for an indeterminate period of time  (I’m talking about a pandemic, not an incarceration) and you feel like blogging again!

Thankfully, my family and I are happy, healthy, and safe. We wash our hands A LOT and try not to touch our faces. The skin on our hands resembles catcher’s mitts. Despite all of this, I do realize we are very blessed and I am grateful for that.

Still, there’s a lot of stuff I took for granted pre-pandemic that I really miss. Here are some of the things I could really use right about now:

four person standing at top of grassy mountain
Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

Random Human Contact

My immediate family and I are hunkered down in our own home and we have enough to get through this uncertain time. We are social distancing and staying out of stores – and away from people outside of our little tribe – as much as possible to stay healthy.

Since I am an introvert, I never, ever thought I would miss social interaction with random strangers. I am not an extrovert by any means, although those with a more severe case of introversion would probably scoff and call me a closet extrovert.

I didn’t realize how much of my day is spent chatting with people at work (now that I work exclusively at home), making amusing chit chat with the neighbors, or having polite conversations with new people at the dog run or the local park.

man and woman running near green leaf trees photo
Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

Suddenly, the only humans I see are…nobody. Or they are people who will not get within 20 feet of me. I never knew I would miss that kind of contact, but this has been an enlightening time. You mean I LIKE PEOPLE? Fascinating.

Book Club

English major nerd that I am, I belong to two book clubs.

My first book club is filled with wonderful PARP (Parents Are Reading Partners) moms, or I should say, ex-PARP moms (our kids are all way past having us as reading partners). Ten years later, this book club still lives and breathes, and we have never looked back.

We started meeting at each other’s houses, then moved our get-togethers to a local Panera’s. We eat, and laugh, and share stories about each other’s kids and families….and eventually talk about the book some of us have read.

Thanks to this wonderful group of women, I have come across some of incredible reads, including Molokai (which I’ve recommended in other blogs), The Swans of Fifth Avenue, The Bell Jar, The Nightingale, and The Book Thief.

molokai

These experiences have been so good that I wanted to share them with other people I love. So, my nephew and I decided to create our own family book club. We take turns meeting in each other’s houses, where we eat, laugh, and eventually discuss the books we’re reading, including Where The Crawdads Sing, The Wives, The Guest Book, Supermarket, Caught, The Woman in the Window, and The Silent Patient.

book chapter six
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Of course, both of my book clubs can’t meet now, or for the foreseeable future. I guess we could meet virtually to discuss these books in detail. Who knows? At this point, anything is possible.

Leisurely Strolls Through Big Box Stores

Yes, there was a time in the not-so-distant past that I would go for a stroll through Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, or Petco, shopping for clothes, food, or soap in a leisurely fashion.

Now, the only time I head out to the stores is when we’re low on food, cleaning supplies, or toilet paper. The last time I went out, I wore a scarf over my face, ran through the aisles in search of toilet paper, got a hot tip from a store associate who told me to be at the warehouse door the next morning at 9 am. I ran back out to my car empty handed but pumped and ready for my morning meet-up.

Yes, these are interesting times.

woman in mask holding toilet paper
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Dress Codes

The first few days I worked from home, I dressed like I was going into work. I wore blouses, slacks and jewelry. I put on my makeup and brushed my hair. I lived in fear of video conferences that would “out” me as a slacker.

On Day 2, I realized that I could turn off the camera, and since that time, I have been so busy that…let’s say, certain dress code rules and regulations have been relaxed.

While I don’t exactly look like I sleep outdoors or was raised by wolves, I now understand why teenagers wear pajamas and Birkenstocks all day long.

Out of Here
I’m outta here

The Barber/Hairdresser

For all you folks who think you’re low key in the upkeep department, I’m wondering: how does your hair look lately? I, for one, look like I just came out of a 20 year long sleep and go by the name of either Rip Van Winkle or Dumbledore.

I underestimated my love affair with hair dye, and for that, let me just say: I MISS YOU! YOU COMPLETE ME! COME BACK TO ME! WE BELONG TOGETHER!

My Sunny Optimistic Streak

Has anyone seen it? I could really use it right now. I promise I’ll find it in time for next Wednesday’s blog post!

Recipe:

50 Things to Make with Pasta Sauce

Eggs in Purgatory

If you’re running out of things to make for dinner, here are 50 recipes you can use to create something delicious from a pantry staple – a jar of tomato sauce! My favorite is Eggs in Purgatory!

So, Hungry Lifers…what do you miss most these days? What new things have you found that have delighted or surprised you? Please leave a comment below and let us all know.

Stay healthy and safe! Now go wash your hands. 🙂

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!

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