Tales From A Hungry Life

October 21, 2016

The Best and Worst Halloween Candy

By Maria Schulz

I ventured outside my cubicle the other day and saw that my old nemesis had returned to haunt me. No, I’m not talking about one of my coworkers. I’m talking about this guy.

IMG_0216

Come to me…

Do you remember him? I’ve written about him before because someone in my office takes him out every year about this time and fills him with things I can’t resist: Snickers, Almond Joy, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Three Musketeers, and 100 Grand Bars.

betty-white-snickers-ad

I can’t resist either

I was hoping to research all that candy and get permission to indulge my raging sweet tooth, but instead I found this article that ranks the 52 Best and Worst Halloween Candy.

almond joy

When you feel like a nut.

When I was little, I didn’t worry about eating candy. I simply spent weeks dreaming about getting as much as humanly possible. First. I would spend weeks thinking about what costume I’d wear, assembling the ensemble, and getting every detail just right. Whether I was Snow White (hot plastic mask and all) or Raggedy Ann with red yarn hair, my costume had to be thought out and ready for my big day.

Well, that was the way until I was about 9 and I decided that being a gypsy or bum was the easiest and fastest way to get out the door and begin my quest for more candy than one human could carry in a brown paper bag.

VALUE VILLAGE - Pop Culture Inspires Halloween Trends

Back then, I was guaranteed to walk around the neighborhood for a couple of hours. I didn’t worry about having to burn off all the calories because I knew I’d bring that bag of candy home and six big, hungry boys would eat 95% of it within hours of my arrival.

I miss those days. Now, if I bring home two tons of candy, there’s a good chance that my little family and I will eat more than is good for a small village. So I try to keep the candy out of my house until the very last minute, and then give away big handfuls to anyone who comes to my doorstep. Yes, even the mailman gets Kit Kats and 100 Grand Bars so I don’t eat them myself.

kids playing

Did someone say CANDY?

The fact that Smilin’ Jack is right outside my office door makes it harder for me to stay on the straight and narrow, but I’ve learned something along the way of this “eating right” journey. Deprivation is the mother of all food binges. If I want one tiny candy bar, I have it. That way, I can stop thinking about it. I don’t let that pumpkin scare me anymore. I save my energy for the truly scary things in life.

clown

Now that’s scary

Once I’ve satisfied my craving,  I watch all the people sticking their grubby hands into that pumpkin and I realize…maybe I’m not so hungry after all.

Recipes: Healthy Halloween Ideas

healthy-halloween-ideas

Here are some really fun, healthier treats that you can whip up for your kids (or keep ’em for yourself…I won’t tell). You’ll find recipes for Monster Sandwiches, Frozen Banana Mummies, Goblin Potion, and more.

So, Hungry Lifers: what’s your favorite Halloween candy? How do you avoid eating too much of those little candy bars? What’s your best Halloween recipe? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

 

 

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August 10, 2016

Every Day is National Book Lover’s Day

by Maria Schulz

Yesterday was National Book Lover’s Day. I don’t really need a special day designated for this, since it’s almost like saying: “Today is National Get Up and Breathe Day.” Since I was a young child, every day is National Book Lover’s Day.

Tales From A Hungry Life A Memoir with Recipes cover

Available on amazon.com

Reading inspires me every single day. When the memoir category got hot, I read every single book: Glass Castle, Running with Scissors, Angela’s Ashes. It even inspired me to write my own book–Tales From a Hungry Life: A Memoir with Recipes. I wanted to write a book about a happy family. Yes, a memoir topic that seemed harder to find than a Yeti, Loch Ness Monster, and Sasquatch all rolled up into one.

My mother started me on my love of books by reading “Sleeping Beauty” to me every night before bed. I loved the beautiful illustrations and enjoyed the power of that classic fairy tale. I wondered what happened to Maleficent to make her such a meanie…I mean, not getting invited to a party is hurtful, but come on! It’s not like it was Aurora’s/Briar Rose’s/Sleeping Beauty’s fault.

sleeping-beauty and maleficent

I struggled with reading on my own until my third grade teacher, Mrs. Grille, kept me after school every day for a month and helped me. She pointed me towards the box of biographies and got me started reading about John F. Kennedy, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Once she realized I had mastered the mechanics, she set me free to read anything I liked, and I’ve never looked back.

When I hit high school, I was lucky to have some awesome English teachers. They encouraged my curiosity and nurtured my love for reading and writing. There was Mr. Reines, who had us read The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis, and The Great Stories Collection featuring University Days by James Thurber, Willa Cather (Paul’s Case), D.H. Lawrence (The Rocking Horse Winner), The Waltz (Dorothy Parker), The Jilting of Granny Weatherall (Katherine Anne Porter), Tomorrow and Tomorrow and So Forth (John Updike), Everything That Rises Must Converge (Flannery O’Connor), and The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad, among others.

Great Stories

Yes, I still have my copy!

As a book lover himself, he enjoyed talking about the many themes, plot lines, and historical contexts that influenced the stories. The authors and their characters became like distant relatives or friends as we discussed their motivations and flaws. Why did Leora love Martin so much in Arrowsmith? Did he deserve her? Why did Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye complain so much? What was his problem? Why was Paul from Willa Cather’s “Paul’s Case” so desperate? How did James Thurber use himself as a comic foil?

Props to Mr. Reines for engaging this snarky teenager and making me want to keep reading, turning the page, and finding out more about every character I encountered.

I was an English major geek through and through, and even though high school and college are far away in the rearview mirror, I am still a book lover. I read over the short stories that inspired me to go on to an undergraduate and graduate degree in Creative Writing, and every time I re-read them, I understand a little bit more about myself–and how to make my stories better.

I still read every day. Here are some of the books I’ve read in the past that I love and I hope you’ll enjoy too.

12 Great Reads and Must-Reads for Book Lovers Everywhere

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

pride and prejudice

Read the book. Then watch this version

Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis

Molokai by Alan Brennert

molokai

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence

Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

the book thief

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobosky

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Recipe: Creamy Rice Pudding

creamy rice pudding

Guess what? Not only was it National Book Lover’s Day, it was also National Rice Pudding Day! I have had an intimate affair with rice pudding since working as a deli cook back in my teen years. My former boss taught me how to make rice pudding that was legendary, but then told me that if I shared the recipe, she’d have to kill me. So enjoy this recipe from allrecipes.com. Read a book, eat some rice pudding, and while you’re at it, read all about my tragi-comic life in my book (of course, my favorite of all): Tales From a Hungry Life: A Memoir With Recipes. Enjoy!

So, Hungry Lifers: What’s your favorite book? Who inspired you to read? Do you like rice pudding? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

 

 

 

 

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.

 

May 2, 2016

A Hairy Story

by Maria Schulz

All right, I’ll admit it: my hair and I have had two very separate minds for most of my life. It all started when my cousin Angela asked if she could cut off my waist-length hair.

“Will it grow back in time for school?” I asked. (I was only 7, and It was August, by the way).

“Um, sure!” she said.

the-way-of-love-album-cover

I remember the sheer look of delight on Angela’s face when she was done. I also remember being very cold on the drive home, even though it was 85 degrees out. No worries though. My hair would grow back by September! Or not. I’m still waiting.

I never really had a hairstyle that I loved as much as that Cher-inspired, waist-length, straight as can be ‘do. Although, I did try really hard to find “the one.”

There was the Dorothy Hamill hair cut that I decided to get when every other girl on the planet got one too. Dorothy looked so cute! Look at her with her gold medal and pixie hair cut. I might never win a gold medal, but I was sure I could look equally adorable. Except…I looked more like Tony Danza in Taxi than Dorothy Hamill on the podium.

dorothy hamill

Looks good on her…

Fast forward to the ‘80s. High hair, perms, and mousse ruled the land. The models in the salon posters all looked FANTASTIC with their gigantic hair. If I looked just like those women in the posters, I was sure my life would be so much more fun.

There would be nights on the town! Laughter and merriment! Good times and great people. I got those hairstyles, and I met lots of amazing people, but still, something wasn’t quite right. I looked like a crazy, windblown peasant girl. Or, as my old Stern’s pal and co-worker John B. put it, I looked kind of like this.

lucy grape stomping

By the time the 80s ended, I thought I was over hair fads. So imagine my friend Dorothy’s surprise when I showed up on her wedding day in my bridesmaid’s gown looking like Joan Jett’s twin sister. I don’t think she was happy, but I was (if only I was half as successful at recreating this look the next day!)

Joan Jett

Yes, by the 90s I had sworn off those silly, hard-to-manage celebrity hairstyles for good. Until…Friends became the hottest show on television, and Rachel had the cutest hair. My poor hairstylist had to recreate this look for me (I’m pretty sure she hated it as much as I loved it). I have to admit, this style looked great on me, but it was a gigantic pain to keep up! No wonder Jennifer Aniston hated it.

rachel

Here’s the thing about my hair. It goes where it wants, whether I spend hours on it or let it air dry. Either way, I end up looking like this.

Bram Stokers Dracula

I finally made peace with it. I’m an adult now, and I understand that celebrities have one huge thing that I don’t: stylists! They have professionals spending hours and hours making them look fantastic. I’m lucky if I have 15 minutes to blow dry my hair. It’s time for me to accept the curly, wild, unpredictable, dense mane that the good Lord (and my Mama) gave me. Although these days, I really think I could pull this celebrity hairstyle off.

Betty White

Recipe: Angel Hair Pasta Primavera

I’ve made this recipe on numerous occasions and it’s always a big hit. I like to try different pastas, so spaghetti, penne, or angel hair pasta (my daughters’ favorite) all work. Your call! Don’t be intimidated by the long ingredient list. Pick your favorite vegetables, roast them, and go from there. You won’t be sorry! This is quick, delicious, and very satisfying.

no-cream pasta primavera

So, Hungry Lifers: do you have a love-hate relationship with your hair? Do you have hair? What was your favorite type of hairstyle EVER? 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!

 

 

 

January 13, 2016

Unresolved

by Maria Schulz

New-Year-Resolutions

Happy New Year! Yes, it’s probably getting a little late to wish everyone this, but I’m just wrapping my head around the fact that it’s 2016. That number looks SO WEIRD to me. I remember being a kid and thinking that the year 2000 was so far away. Now, the year 2000 seems far away again, but only because it’s in my rearview mirror. Remember the hysteria caused by Y2K? Good times.

This being January, it’s time to consider how we want to reframe our future, as opposed to letting it all hang out come December holiday time. Yes folks, it’s time to talk about resolutions.

Wait…don’t run away. It’s not that bad! Here are the usual suspects when it comes to the most popular resolutions on people’s lists:

lists

It’s go time

  1. Lose weight
  2. Eat right
  3. Go to the gym
  4. Spend more time with family
  5. Cut down on stress
  6. Learn something new
  7. Volunteer
  8. Cut back on alcohol
  9. Stop smoking
  10. Travel and see the world

Some of these are easy for me. Spending time with family and traveling anywhere comes as naturally to me as breathing, and smoking was never my vice. I love learning new things (or at least trying), I’m always happy to volunteer, and I don’t really like the taste of alcohol. Plus, who doesn’t want to cut down on stress?

augustus gloop

But…it’s the gym/weight/eating thing that gets me. I know I should go to the gym, but there are days I just feel like putting on a snuggly and going to sleep. Of course, they frown on that at work, so I am conscious far more often than I’d like. By the time I get home from work, I don’t want to go back out again. What I would like to do is eat chocolate chip cookie dough while laying on the couch and binge-watching stand-up comedy routines, Jeopardy!, and The Office re-runs.

Jabba_the_Hutt

I’ll just lay here

However, since I don’t want to look like Jabba the Hut by 2017, I will not lay around until they have to cut a wall down from my house in order to get me out. I’ve been looking up inspirational quotes to keep me motivated. Here are some of them:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” –Ghandi

“Dreams don’t work unless you do.”—Anonymous

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”—Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

elizabeth-taylor

You tell ’em, Liz

“Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and get yourself together.”—Liz Taylor

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”—Henry David Thoreau

“Do one thing that scares you every day.”—Eleanor Roosevelt

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic. It takes sweat, determination, and hard work.” –Colin Powell

ralph-waldo-emerson quote

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”—Eleanor Roosevelt

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, and hope for tomorrow.”—Albert Einstein

albert-einstein

Here are some of my own quotes:

“I hate change almost as much as change hates me.”

“Why don’t you stop whining and just shut up.”

“Dreams are like the popular kids in middle school who smiled at you but never let you sit at their table during lunch period.”

“What the hell am I doing on the ocean trying to sail during a fx!c@ng storm!!!”

Funny-new-years-resolutions-calvin-and-hobbs

“Where’s my resolution list from 2000? I can probably use the same one.”

“Forget about yesterday…you’re living in the past, man.”

“Did they take The Office off channel 5? I got scared there for a minute.”

“When did sarcasm go out of style?”

“You are right. I should stop laughing at you.”

“Resolutions are for those of us who aren’t perfect. Good luck with yours.”

Recipe:

salmon swimming upstream

Keep swimming

Poached Salmon with Champagne Sauce

I liked this recipe because it looks easy, and Food Network included it for New Year’s  because they said: “swimming ahead and never looking back, fish symbolize hope.”

So, what are your resolutions? What’s your favorite inspiring quote? What are your own personal words to live by? Please leave a comment. Thanks, and Happy New Year.

November 21, 2015

All You Can Eat, Or Not

by Maria Schulz

I was reading the Huffington Post’s “Weird News” section the other day when I saw an article titled “Woman Flips Out Over All You Can Eat Pancake Rule.” It seems that this lady FREAKED OUT because she was not allowed to share her $4 plate of all you can eat pancakes with everyone at her table.

all you can eat

When the waitress pointed out that “All You Can Eat” really only refers to YOU and not your table full of friends and relatives, the diner went crazy. She began screaming, swinging her fists at the waitress, and then went outside and started kicking in the door.

I mean, if you can’t feed a party of 12 with $4 worth of all you can eat pancakes, what is this world coming to?

4-all-you-can-eat-pancakes

Warning: May Cause Insanity

This story cracked me up, but it didn’t shock me. It’s only surprising to people that never worked in a restaurant or in retail. People who are normally nice and not insane really lose their minds when it comes to freebies or sales. As we head into the holiday season, I thought it might be helpful to give a few examples of Behaviors to Avoid When in Public. Ready? Let’s go…

lists

I’ll give you seven good reasons…

It’s An All-You-Can-Eat Soup and Salad Bar. But everything else will cost you. Diners would lose their minds when they couldn’t get an extra Coke for free, or when they had to pay for a slice of chocolate cake. You just ate 12 bowls of kale, iceberg lettuce, carrots, chickpeas, broccoli, fruit, chocolate pudding, and croutons, and downed enough soup to fill a river, for $7.99. But you’re going to beat me senseless for a 99-cent drink? I know croutons make you thirsty, but come on.

Yes, we run out of things sometimes. Shoppers would become apoplectic when a wine set that was on sale for $19 was out of stock. Never mind that it’s closing time on day 5 of a 5-day-sale. Or that the circular says we have very limited quantities and offer no rain checks. You want that wine set! You want that rain check! I should call every store on the globe to get it for you! Or maybe you could buy an identical wine set that costs the same thing? Nah.

baked potato

Life. Liberty. And the pursuit of baked potatoes.

Baked Potatoes Are NOT an Unalienable Right: when I worked at a local steakhouse, the lines would stretch out the door. By the time I was taking order #237, we would have run out of baked potatoes. Or beer. Or even steak. This would cause some customers to turn red-faced with rage. Shouts of “HOW COULD YOU NOT HAVE STEAK IN A STEAK HOUSE?”, “I WANT A BAKED POTATO!”, or “ALL I WANT IS AN ICE COLD BEER!” would ring out. Meanwhile, the manager hid behind the swinging door, only peering out long enough to whisper, “just give them a free salad plate and maybe they’ll go away.” Read all about my hazy crazy Salad Days in my book, Tales From A Hungry Life: A Memoir with Recipes, available at amazon.com!

Now available on amazon.com

Now available on amazon.com

No, this isn’t a flea market: one day, a man came into the store and offered me $5 to sell him a $300 tea set for $30. He insisted that I had agreed to do this for him the week before the sale. I had to explain that I had never laid eyes on him in my entire life, and since I did not personally own the tea set, I could not sell it to him for 90% off. Also, I didn’t want to go to jail while he sat at home admiring his almost free sterling silver tea set.

Tea_set

Warning: May Cause Insanity

Food always looks better on the commercial: lots of folks would come running in when we ran commercials about our specials. What they could never understand was why the shrimp was microscopically small or why the chicken didn’t look as fresh or delicious as the commercial made it seem. Folks, it’s all about the camera angle. Plus our 17-year-old chef isn’t very good at what he does.

Special Orders are By Definition specially ordered: if you want to place an order for an expensive, hand-crafted gift that you know will be shipped on a slow barge from China, why are you surprised that you can’t have it in time for cousin Susie’s wedding this Saturday? You’ve known about the wedding for months, right? No, I can’t get it for you in time. Sure, you can talk to my manager…but he can’t get it for you any faster either.

Donkey-on-slow-boat

Sure, your order will get here soon

When Confronted by Your Own Thoughtlessness, Insult the Personnel: when my friend got a college internship at a well-known theme park, one of his jobs was to ask patrons who were hoarding tables (but not actually eating) to please move on so that diners coming off one of the many food court lines could eat. One day, one of his fellow interns asked a man sitting at a table for hours to please relinquish it. The man became enraged and started screaming to his kids: LOOK AT THIS GUY! HE’S A LOSER! THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON’T GO TO COLLEGE! WORK HARD IN SCHOOL KIDS, OR YOU’LL HAVE TO STAND GUARD OVER A TABLE FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIVES!

Recipe: Banana Pancakes

I chose this recipe in honor of all the people out there that go bananas in public. This recipe got lots of rave reviews, but as some of the reviewers said, add a little vanilla, some cinnamon, walnuts and whipped cream for a delicious treat. Make sure you cook them on low so that the outsides don’t burn AND the insides get fully cooked. No one wants mushy pancakes…it’s the kind of thing that might make you insane!

banana pancakes

Looks good to me

So…what’s your funniest Customer Gone Wild story? Please share it in the comments section. Thanks!

May 27, 2015

The Joys of Exercising

Filed under: exercise,famiy,Food,fun,Humor,laughter,recipes — talesfromahungrylife @ 7:01 am
Tags: , , , ,

Recently, I read an article about a research project that followed two groups of mice: a young group and an old group. Both were tracked 24/7 to see what their activity levels were, when they were busiest, the state of their awake/sleep times, and what impact it had on their health. The young mice were busy throughout the day and slept soundly at night. The old mice were less busy throughout the day and slept less at night.

etsy.com mouse on wheel

Available at etsy.com

However, after the researchers put wheels into their cages, both sets of mice became more active. They exercised more, ate less, and both became much healthier. Life was looking up for everyone—until those rotten scientists removed their wheels. So what happened? The mice started laying on their couches, watching The Big Bang Theory marathons, and eating tons of White Castle.

Binge-worthy

Binge-worthy

No, wait…that was me. Anyway, if you want to read the article, click here.

There are times when getting up and exercising on my own personal wheel is something of a chore. I work at a desk job, so my daily movement can be limited. I got a fitness band to help gently remind me when to get up and move so that I don’t resemble Jabba the Hutt by the time I’m ready for retirement.

I like White Castle

I like White Castle

Throughout the day, my bracelet lights up and repeatedly flashes the message: GO MARIA! GO! If I don’t go, the bracelet continues to flash. I imagine it must be awful if you’re prone to seizures.

So what do I do? I go. I walk and walk, and then walk some more. Still, that damn bracelet keeps yelling at me. As I’m walking aimlessly around my tiny office, I occasionally can be heard saying, “WHAT THE XX!!# DO YOU WANT, BRACELET?” You can imagine how popular I am.

Today WE RUN!

Today WE RUN!

My bracelet reminds me of my 9th grade Physical Education teacher. Let’s call her Ms. Hell-Raiser. Ms. H-R had all the subtle, engaging charm of a Death Star storm trooper. She appeared to be carved out of marble but lacking the usual warmth of marble (yes, I realize that marble is cold), with calf muscles that may have been bigger than actual calves. Each beautiful morning would begin with orders like these:

“You lazy bums. I SAID MOVE!”

“WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU LOSERS?”

and my personal favorite:

“If you idiots had to run for your lives from a hungry lion, you’d all be breakfast.”

He's probably about to eat breakfast

He’s probably about to eat breakfast

My classmates seemed able to respond to these kinds of motivational/cruel speeches by—remarkably—running faster. I, on the other hand, was okay with the idea of being eaten by a large predator. At least I would have gotten out of gym class.

So, of course, Hell-Raiser hated me.

When everyone else was done running around the track, I’d still be running at a pace that my teacher deemed glacial. This might be true, but for someone who would have rather been sitting in English class discussing how much she loved Leora in Arrowsmith or why To Kill a Mockingbird was the quintessential American classic, it was stitch-in-the-side, all-out, blazing fast, warp speed.

Also a great movie to sit and watch

Also a great movie to sit and watch

Hell-Raiser was incensed because she thought I ran slowly on purpose. Not so! While I often did enjoy seeing her purple face and infuriated grimace as I made my way around the mind-numbing circle known as the track, I could not actually go any faster. I am slow and plodding, just like every other member of my family, and probably a long line of ancestors before me. We are the people who perfected not being spotted by predators because we would either stand still (and not be detected) or hide behind a tree while everyone else darted away and the lion chased them down.

I like my bicycle

I like my bicycle

If there had been bicycles in gym class, I could’ve wowed Hell-Raiser with my superior racing skills and beaten her in any competition. Of course, I also would’ve ridden away, never to be seen again.

My high school gym experiences made me believe for a time that there are 2 kinds of people in the world:

  1. Those who love exercising, eating right, and weighing 20 lbs.
  2. Me

The trauma inflicted on my psyche has led me to do some serious soul searching. Yes, I know exercise is important, and I try to do it every single day. I use lots of motivational tools and tricks to keep me going. So, here is my list of things I tell myself to keep getting onto my “wheel” every single time.

8 Great Things About Exercise

  1. It doesn’t last forever
  2. It has been known to cause heart attacks—so there’s always a way out
  3. Sometimes, the really gung-ho athletes around you trip and fall, providing random and welcome sources of comedic relief
  4. When done properly, there’s only a small chance I might fall and break a limb
  5. The more calories you burn, the more White Castle you can eat later
  6. The Gym is obviously a place to suffer, which knocks off time in Hell…and those awkward reunions with your 9th grade Phys. Ed. teacher
  7. Exercising allows you to be morally superior to people who lay around watching The Big Bang Theory marathons and eating White Castle (you know, the same people you actually envy)
  8. It helps you become a master of pointless repetition, bringing some of us right back to our Catholic school years when we learned the Hustle

Recipes:

Top 28 Best Healthy Snacks

Yum

Yum

What is it about exercise that makes me so hungry? If the idea is to torch calories, why do I come home wanting to eat more? The list of recipes above offer 28 easy to make or easy to find treats that even I thought looked enjoyable.

So, Hungry Lifers…what’s your favorite form of exercise? Were you traumatized or inspired by your gym teachers? Which TV show/food do you binge on? Please leave a comment, and then get back on your wheels NOW. 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!

April 22, 2015

National Poetry Month

by Maria Schulz

Celebrate!

Celebrate!

April is National Poetry Month. No…WAIT! Don’t run away. Poetry can be fun, and it can also make you think. I wasn’t always so sure about that, though. As a Creative Writing major, I had to take my fair share of poetry classes. Sometimes, there was no narcotic quite as strong as a Poetry professor who would drone on and on about stanzas, couplets, and haikus. Zzzzzzzzzz…oh sorry, I just fell asleep there.

But I was lucky. I was blessed with teachers who just knew how to capture my attention with masterful writing. To teachers everywhere: thank you for your creativity, sense of adventure, ability to laugh, and for helping me recognize the power of the written word.

So many words, so little time

So many words, so little time

In that spirit, I participated in an April Poetry Challenge a few years back. Every day, we received a challenge: write a poem in some particular form or free verse. Here are some of the challenges I had fun with or was inspired by. Ready? I hope you can stay awake with me. Let’s go:

Write a haiku and an anti-haiku poem:

Spring Haiku

Rain splashes flowers

Daffodils and tulips grow

The ground is bejeweled.

A fashion staple! NOT

A fashion staple! NOT

Anti-Haiku

The Catholic school

Girl in me hates uniforms

Or form-bound poems.
Write a poem about traveling:

It's just snow

Night Sweats

Every night, after work,

I look over my calendar

And wonder how I’m going to get

My girls from soccer to softball

Gymnastics to baskeball.

Photo night? Birthday parties?

Special Occasions? Playdates?

I go back to my own childhood

When my bicycle was my lifeline

My mother said, “be home at 5.”

I like my bicycle

I like my bicycle

I rode all over town,

Across the major road that was forbidden,

Because as long as I didn’t get hit,

They would never know.

I took myself to sports and parties,

Throwing balls and gifts into my flowered basket,

Best friend on the back of my banana seat,

We were mostly on time.

Hurry!

Hurry!

Now, I race from one place to another,

My girls screaming in the back seat.

No one rides their bikes anywhere anymore,

God forbid my children take that forbidden road!

I think of that mother in Westchester who dropped her kids

By the side of the road after 2 hours of constant fighting

And think that the prison cell must have been a nice change of pace.

Then I think of Susan Boyle, the Britain’s Got Talent sudden superstar,

Who has totally wrecked my chances of being a middle-aged,

Frumpy, bushy eye-browed singing sensation

(or at least the first of her kind).

These are the places I travel

While the kids are screaming

And we go from one game to another.

Write a poem about longing:

The early days

The early days

Longing

As I watch my girls blossom and grow

I think how nice it would have been

For them to get to know

My mother. How she would have shared secrets

with them, given them money when I refused,

Taken them places I neither had the time or desire to see.

Girly-girl that she was, her energies were wasted

On tom-boyish me.

But my girls would have delighted her,

Shared tea parties and boy stories,

Dressed in feather boas and beaded bonnets,

Enjoyed fashion shows at the mall.

Like her mother before her, my mother would have

Wiped away tears they would never show

Their poor old useless mother.

How is it that I became that old–and useless?

And how is it that

My mother, who never got the chance to be old,

Grows stronger and stronger in my memory,

My head filled with longing

For the mother and grandmother

That early-onset Alzheimer’s stole

Like a cassette tape

that’s been erased

From back to front.

Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad

Write a sestina:

What’s a sestina? I’m glad you asked:

  1. The sestina is composed of six stanzas of six lines (sixains), followed by a stanza of three lines (a tercet). There is no rhyme within the stanzas; instead the sestina is structured through a recurrent pattern of the words that end each line, a technique known as “lexical repetition”.

Sarita’s Sestina

When it came to laughter

Nothing could stop my mother

Like earth, wind, and fire

Laughter was an exciting boss

Who couldn’t stop piling on the work

And who, in the end, she grew to love.

Even when all seemed lost, there was love.

Mixed with tears and a hearty dose of laughter.

Dancing to wile away the time, always full of fire,

Keeping her hands busy with work

And laughing still, my giggling mother

Was so confused, believing the nurses were her bosses.

She thought, “you have to listen to your boss.”

And so she did, and she made them laugh

Tagging behind them on rounds and worrying about being fired.

Folding towels, pouring juice for other patients, work

Was her one true love

And it helped her get through those days when she called for her own mother.

“Where is my mother?”

She would say as soon as she was done working.

Fear would hide behind the laughter

As she folded faster, always watching for her boss.

The nurses grew to love

Sarita, the dancing patient full of fire.

“They wouldn’t dare to fire

Such a good worker. Not even my boss

Could help but fall in love

With me,” declared my mother.

Her unending devotion to work

Always made me laugh.

“You want to laugh?”

My mother said, her eyes sparkling and fiery.

“Here comes my boss.

Even though I forget, it’s me she loves!”

Mom dances and laughs; that’s my mother,

Taking her tragic denouement all in a day’s work.
Never bossy, always laughing.

Loving and dancing while she worked.

My mother made the most of her mind’s dying fire.

He likes it!

He likes it!

Don’t go yet! Just one more, to lighten the mood. Write a poem titled, “Never (fill in the blank):

Never Eat Pop Rocks and Coke

Never eat pop rocks and Coke

They will make your head explode!

It’s true! It’s a fact!

It’s what did in that kid, Mikey.

You know Mikey–

“He likes it! He likes it!

Hey Mikey!”

Of Life Cereal fame.

What a shame.

He had so much Life left in him.

RECIPE:

Homemade Pop Rocks

Get your homemade Pop Rocks here! Fizzy, fruity, and fabulous, that’s pop rocks for you. I’m happy to report that Mikey is, in fact, still alive and well, and probably enjoying Life cereal, pop rocks, and yes, even Cokes as we speak. This recipe looks like fun–try it and I hope you’ll like it, really like it!

So, have you ever written a poem? Did your eyes glaze over in poetry class, or did you have a favorite poet? What’s your favorite poem? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks again for reading and commenting.