Tales From A Hungry Life

March 27, 2017

Take 10 Steps Towards Happiness

by Maria Schulz

I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately that tell me how to be happier, increase my productivity, and achieve nirvana. I haven’t gotten there yet, and I’m no yogi on the mountain, but here are some of the things I’ve learned so far.

#10: Don’t expect to find everything you need to be happy in the pages of your self-help books. Yeah, I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for these kinds of books. I love the titles and I fall for the promises on the back every time. But here’s my advice: you know what you need to make you happy. Self-help books offer lots of great tips, but one of the first things you must do is: trust yourself.

Look! I’m happy

#9: Turn off the TV and go outside. There’s a great big world out there just waiting for you to participate in it. Go breathe some fresh air and meet some real people. Don’t expect the world to come to you. Go find it!

#8: Thank someone selfless that you know…and while you’re at it, thank someone selfless that serves the greater good. Kiss your mother/father. If you’re lucky enough to still have them, you should know to do this. Now get to it. In the same vein, thank a teacher, nurse, doctor, fireman, policeman (you get the idea) for their hard work and devotion.

Are all you kids on dope?

 

#7: Let go of petty grudges. I’m not talking about the horrible, unforgivable stuff. I mean this kind of thing: So-and-so told everyone I was a loser in the 10th grade and I’ll never forgive her. Little Johnny called me fat when I was 12 and I’ll hate him forever. Pardon me, but so what? That was then. Chances are that So-and-So and Little Johnny don’t remember this transgression and if they do, they probably realize they were idiots. Besides, doesn’t carrying around all that petty baggage weigh you down? Let it go, and lose 30 pounds of psychic fat.

#6: Get a dog. You will experience love and devotion unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. Or, if you’re not ready for that level of intimacy, get a cat. (NOTE TO ALL OUTRAGED READERS: THAT WAS A JOKE! Lighten up people. I like cats).

Don’t you want to walk me?

#5: Find your passion. By this, I don’t mean rob a bank or have an affair. I mean get a hobby! Cook, paint, write, ski, bike ride, WHATEVER. Have fun doing something that makes you feel as gleeful as you did when you were 10 years old.

#4: Volunteer. Find a charity or cause that you feel strongly about and work for them. Raise money, help at events, and spread the word. National charities like the Multiple Sclerosis Society, St. Jude Children’s Hospital, The Alzheimer’s Association and charities like The Lexiebean Foundation (I volunteer for this pediatric cancer foundation that helps children with cancer and their families) make it super easy for you to participate. The MS Society even has a program that lets you raise money by swimming laps–in your own pool! You could help others and lose weight. Win/win. This is the kind of program that you can follow to find creative ways to help lots of worthy charities. It’s always good to put your focus outside of yourself. Too much navel-gazing is never a good thing.

Let’s read. And talk. And eat.

#3: Read a book. You know what? Read a thousand books! If you don’t like the first one, move on. Ask for suggestions. Everyone has a favorite book and will be happy to give you lots of options. Open your mind, explore different opinions, and do your research. Ignorance is not something to be celebrated.

Plus you can read whatever you want

#2: Verify your sources. In this polarized world we live in, it’s easy to get sucked into an information bubble where we only read news that supports our narrow belief system. Don’t get caught in that trap. Talk to other people and get their opinions. You may never agree with them, but you will also never understand them if you don’t do this. Learn to respect other people’s views. You will probably learn that you have more ideals, hopes, and dreams in common than you have differences.

Let’s have fun

#1: Be present. Don’t spend your precious time hoping to one day be happy. Make today someday. Find the thing that makes you happy and welcome it into your life as often as possible. Put down that phone, tablet, remote control (or whatever distraction you’re currently focused on) and really look into your spouse’s/child’s/parents’/family member’s/friend’s/pet’s eyes and appreciate them, warts and all. Live in this moment. You’ll be happy you did.

Recipe:

Chocolate and nuts make me happy

Here’s one more tip: include foods that make you happy every day! Here’s a fun article that lists 10 foods that will help boost your mood–including dark chocolate, oysters, clams, apricots, and more.

So, Hungry Lifers: what’s your favorite “happy” food? What tip would you give someone looking for happiness? What’s your favorite book? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks, and have a great day.

February 7, 2017

7 Things You Must Learn From Your Old Dog

by Maria Schulz

There are few things in life as wonderful as bringing a brand new puppy into your home. Puppies are adorable, funny, and curious. Even when they screw up royally by eating the kitchen cabinets or chewing a hole in your couch, you can’t stay mad at them forever.

All of that is true, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: puppies are great, but old dogs are fantastic too. It’s easy to understand why: they’ve gotten most of their bad habits out of their systems (let’s be honest: are all of your bad habits out of your system?) and over the years, you will have developed a mutual affection and understanding.

Where's the cheese?

Where’s the cheese?

As my dog has moved into her “golden years,” she has reminded me of all the ways she has been a blessing in my life. Here are some of the life lessons I’ve gleaned from watching her get through her days.

  1. When You Don’t Feel Good, Lie Down

This seems like a no brainer, but silly humans keep going sometimes instead of listening to their bodies. I am one of those humans. My dog, however, will curl up in a ball on her bed and stay there until she feels better. Who’s the smart one?

  1. When the Sun Shines and the Temperatures are Mild, Let’s Walk

Extremes are not for the old dog. High temperatures or brutal cold bother my dog, so it’s in and out in a flash. But a beautiful day demands participation. We walk for a while, taking in the sunrise or staring at the stars. It’s the best medicine in the world.

Hot, hot, hot

Hot, hot, hot

  1. Medicine goes down better when there’s cheese

Remember Mary Poppins? A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down. Or in my dog’s case, cheese does the trick. Don’t skip out on the very thing that will make you feel better. Find a way to tolerate it and even look forward to it.

  1. Express Joy When Your “Peeps” Come Through the Door

Maybe you can’t jump up and greet them, but you can always let them know how delighted you are to have them around. My dog wags her tail just because we’re sitting close by and watching TV. She’s never shy about letting us know that she’s happy.

You're here!

You’re here!

  1. Some Days Will Be Better Than Others

Every day won’t be a party. Arthritis, stomachaches, headaches, bad hips, or bad knees will sometimes make today a non-participatory day. But tomorrow may find that old dog bringing you her favorite hedgehog toy and playing hide and seek. Live in the moment. Be patient and understanding…just like your dog will be when your bad back leaves you stranded on the couch.

Let's play

Let’s play

  1. Greet Old Friends and Make New Ones

My dog is blessed with a bit of Marilyn Monroe beauty even now. People will stop us to say hello, pet her, and ask how she’s doing. My dog happily accepts all adoration and is delighted when there’s another dog on the other end of this admiration society. Thanks to her, I have met more people than I ever would have if I were walking alone. Sure, puppies bring scores of people to your side…but old dogs are also magnets for the very best people: those who are kind, compassionate, and want to give you and your dog a little support as you walk slowly towards home.

Let's walk

Let’s walk

  1. Every Day is The. Best. Day. Ever.

My old girl doesn’t spend her days worrying about what tomorrow may bring. She wakes up everyday and is ready to eat, walk, and head out on an adventure. She doesn’t dread the numerous vet visits; instead, she charges gleefully through the door. She is the only dog I have ever had that gets excited when I say, “want to go see Dr. D?” She still barks ferociously and protects the people and home that she loves. Every vet visit, car ride, sunrise or starry night is waiting for her, and it’s going to be AWESOME.

I’ve heard it said that people wish they could be half the person that their dog thinks they are. Well, I wish I could be half as optimistic as my old Lab. In the meantime, I’ll follow her lead and enjoy our life together right now.

Recipe: Grilled Cheese

Tomato soup and grilled cheese. A perfect marriage

Tomato soup and grilled cheese. A perfect marriage

50 of the Best Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Nothing makes my dog shimmy and shake quite as much as the sight, smells, and sound of a grilled cheese. These recipes all look delicious and include 50 versions of this time-honored favorite, including the classic grilled cheese, bacon and tomato, pesto, Mediterranean, Gruyere with Sauerkraut, and more.

So: what have you learned from your old dog? Leave a comment and share your thoughts. Thanks! I hope that today brings you your own great adventure.

January 4, 2017

New Year, Same Old You?

by Maria Schulz

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

While ringing in the New Year, I often think about those pesky resolutions that I made last year that never stood a chance. Why can’t I be like those superstars out there that go from couch potato to Marathon boy and girl wonders? Why do I continue to be derailed by Hershey’s Krackle and Mr. Goodbar? How come I never went skydiving, saw the Mona Lisa in person, or ticked off any boxes on my Bucket List?

Wise words from Calvin and Hobbes

Wise words from Calvin and Hobbes

I turned to research for the secrets to New Year’s resolution success, and here’s what I found:

92% of people will not reach their goals this New Year. That’s right! You are not alone. Those lousy 8 percenters are!

The reason most people will fail is because they never make specific goals. If your goal is to “feel better,” “look great,” or “get in shape,” here’s a tip. The more specific you are about what you want to achieve, the better. Instead of “feeling better,” determine that you’re going to stop smoking by March or drop 10 pounds by April to lessen the strain on your joints. Get your hair trimmed and colored every 4 weeks so you don’t look in the mirror and see your grandma looking back. Measure your arms, legs, abdomen, and thighs—and set a specific, measurable goal of losing 2 inches, 4 inches, or however many inches it takes to make you feel less like the Michelin Man. That’s how you will keep track of your progress, and make real time adjustments when you’ve stalled or gone backwards.

New-Year-Resolutions

Don’t make it harder than it has to be. Don’t tell yourself: “I will lose weight, eat better, and climb Mount Everest,” and then give up a day or two later because:

  1. a) You don’t even know how to begin losing weight
  2. b) Is only half a bag of potato chips better than the whole bag?
  3. c) You hate climbing the hill outside your house. Who really believes you’re going to climb Mount Everest? Not you, for starters.

Reset your expectations. Choose to lose 5 pounds. Once that goal is achieved, choose to lose another 5. Keep going until you hit your intended goal. Saying “I’ll lose 100 pounds by March” this January only sets you up for failure. And P.S.: skip the potato chips. Eat an apple.

Stay away

Stay away

Know thyself. If you’re like me and you know your triggers, do yourself a favor: don’t let them anywhere near you. I can’t have a bag of chocolates in my cupboard because their siren song lures me to their rocky shoals. Keep those b*tches out of your house!

Give yourself a break. Any big change comes with successes and failures. Yes, you will be stoked when you take three steps forward. But will you throw in the towel when you take two steps back? Make believe you are your own child. Would you berate them for failing or encourage them to keep going? Be kind to yourself. Everybody screws up. It takes courage to forge ahead.

Get moving

Get moving

Ditch the “all-or-nothing” and “Weekend Warrior” attitude. You can have a cookie but you have to cut the calories elsewhere or you will not succeed later. You can also exercise a little bit all week long instead of trying to compensate by exercising like a maniac over the weekend. This will only lead to injuries. Do a little bit every day and you’ll see results. Just like the tortoise and the hare: slow and steady wins the race.

 

Replace Bad Habits with Something Fun. Lying on the couch, having an existential crisis (why oh why haven’t I become the next J.K. Rowling???), and wondering what TV show I will watch next gets boring. But popping in Just Dance and figuring out the steps while I rock out to Bruno Mars is never dull. I know it’s funny, because my kids can’t stop laughing.

Are we having fun yet?

Are we having fun yet?

Congratulate yourself for a job well done. Did you accomplish even part of your goals? Give yourself the proverbial gold star. Yes, folks—I am an 8 percenter! I lost 18 pounds last year and I haven’t managed to find them again (yet). The only reason I achieved this goal was that I took the time to:

  • Download an app that lets me log my food intake every single day. Yes, that becomes a drag really fast. But you know what’s a bigger drag? Blindly trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong when the pounds stop coming off. All I have to do is look at my food log and I know what the problem is. Potato chips and chocolate are usually the culprits.
  • Keep up that gym membership. Yeah, I don’t really love the gym. I wish I did, but let’s face it: I’d rather be lying on the couch. But you know what? I’m always delighted by myself after I’ve finished. So, I pull my slug-like body up, lace up those sneakers, and go before I’ve talked myself out of it.
  • Bring lunch to work. I still go out with my friends, but since I’ve already eaten, I don’t need to eat a burrito that is almost as big as me (sometimes I give in to the burrito’s siren song, because being good all the time is an equally big recipe for disaster)
  • I can’t lose weight if my four food groups are McDonald’s, Burger King, Five Guys, and IHOP. I signed up for lots of newsletters that give me great recipes that are healthy, delicious, and fast so I’m not tempted to get take-out…and lay on the couch afterwards berating myself.
Get your gold stars here

Get your gold stars here

I may not have met Mona Lisa face to face yet, but the year is young! Now I’m off to make a plan….

Recipe:

Steak and Blue Cheese Wraps

Delicious!

Delicious!

You can also use sirloin steak (instead of flank steak, if you prefer) and reduced fat mayo with blue cheese crumbles (instead of the dressing). But either way, these wraps are delicious and satisfying.

 

So, Hungry Lifers…are you one of the 8 percenters? What goals are you trying to achieve this year? What’s your favorite healthy dinner recipe? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks, and Happy New Year.

 

December 22, 2016

10 Tips for Surviving The Office Holiday Party

by Maria Schulz

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…well, almost. You’ve got a million things to do and no time to do it. Of course, in the middle of all of this madness marches the Office Holiday Party! While making merry with your colleagues can be a hoot and a holla, there are some landmines you must avoid. So, without further ado, here are my…

Wait! I'm not ready

Wait! I’m not ready

10 Tips For Navigating The Sometimes Rocky Shoals of the Office Christmas Party

#10. If it’s a party at a fancy location, don’t dress like you’re going to a ho-down. This ain’t hot dogs and burgers on the company lawn. Deny thy “hee-haw” ways and reach into your closet for an outfit that would make your momma proud.

Not the look you're going for

Not the look you’re going for

#9. Don’t dress like Lady Gaga in her meat dress. This is an office holiday party. Your hero may be Lady Marmalade/The American Gigolo, but save that look for clubbing with friends. Would Grandma gag if she saw your outfit? If the answer is even “maybe,” then look for a more suitable get-up.

#8. Don’t drink yourself silly. Sure, a glass or two of your favorite alcoholic beverage is a great way to loosen up and enjoy yourself. But everyone knows/has a story about that office co-worker who got plastered at the party and then told the CEO what a total nimrod/creepy jerk he/she has been all year. You probably love that story. But…don’t be that person!

Run away!

Run away!

#7. Steer clear of the office gossip. Of course it’s amusing to hear about Peggy and Peter and their raging office affair, or how Mr. Smithers from the executive office is hot for Penelope Pittstop from accounting. But hanging around with the Office Gossip may just land you in the next story about something stupid you’ve done, or make you guilty by association. You don’t want to be the next punchline in his stand-up routine.

#6. If the Office Suck Up/Do Nothing wins an award, smile and clap politely. There are greater travesties of justice to rail about in the outside world. Raining on this person’s parade just makes you look like a jerk.

So long, Crabby

So long, Crabby

#5. Should your co-worker ask if he/she can sit at your mostly empty table during the cocktail hour, of course welcome them. That’s the case even if this person makes your gag reflex work on overdrive. You have to work with this person the rest of the year. Chalk it up to the spirit of Christmas or your second glass of wine, but do it. Keep that smile on your face and the conversation light. Invite others to join you. You’ll live, and maybe this lonely, crabby outcast from the office will carry that goodwill you’ve expressed forward into your daily interactions.

Weather? Check. Shopping? Check.

Weather? Check. Shopping? Check.

#4. Brush up on your small talk in the days leading up to the event. Find neutral, non-offensive topics to discuss and practice on your significant others. “Can you believe how hot/cold/rainy/snowy it’s been?” “Did you do all of your shopping yet?” “Are you going away for the holidays?” are all great starters, and they might just get the dud sitting next to you off and running.

#3. Don’t overshare. No, this is NOT the time or place to tell everyone you come in contact with about that hilarious time you did a drunken version of “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” on your old office karaoke machine or how you egged the boss’s car after last year’s party. That’s old news, or at least you better hope it is. Don’t go there.

Dance like Snoopy

Dance like Snoopy

#2. If there’s dancing, get up and dance. The hours fly by when you’re out there, and even if you look like Elaine on Seinfeld, you’re still having a good time. The boss sprung for a DJ/band. You might as well enjoy it.

Don't be that person

Don’t be that person

#1. Thank the hoi polloi in charge for a lovely event. Maybe the food was terrible, the band gave you a headache, and 5 hours of merry making with people you’ve already spent 40 hours with this week seems like overkill. So what? Don’t be a Debbie Downer. You got to go to a party. It’s not like you spent the day working in a salt mine.

Recipe

Reindeer Cake!

Let them eat Reindeer Cake! Enjoy this recipe from the Food Network and watch the video so you can see how to decorate it perfectly. Go ahead, make Santa proud! Two words: ganache and pretzels. ‘Nuff said.

So…what are your best tips for surviving the office holiday party? What’s your best holiday party story? Favorite recipe? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks! Enjoy.

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!

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!

 

 

September 14, 2016

Carb Love

by Maria Schulz

For the past year, I’ve been watching my calories and trying to eat better. I have not forsaken all of the things that I love because to do so would send me into the old, familiar spiral of binging on everything I just declared I would never touch again.

Now if this was hanging from the tree...

Now if this was hanging from the tree…

Forbidden fruit was not just Eve’s problem. I would’ve never gotten thrown out of The Garden of Eden for eating an apple. If there were cookies, pancakes, waffles, or donuts hanging from the trees, that’s another story.

I can remember playing in my family’s basement with my twin brother as my older brothers and mother milled about on a lazy Sunday morning. My Dad would walk triumphantly through the door holding a bag that smelled like heaven.

Inside of that bag were 9 glistening donuts. My mom handed me one and I bit into it, feeling the steaming hot dough traveling into my waiting belly as jelly trickled down my fingers and across my face. Meanwhile, my brothers stuck their jelly-laden tongues out at me and smiled with jelly all over their teeth.

D'oh! Donuts!

D’oh! Donuts!

The bakery down the block called to us with its siren song of fresh donuts, Italian bread, zeppole, tri-color cookies, crullers, pies, and pizza. Late at night, when the windows were open and the bakery ovens were lit, you could smell the bread and desserts baking. I could look out the window and see the stars in the skies and drift off to sleep while breathing in what I began to think of as family parties and laughter.

More recently, my cousin Eleanor has invited me over to her home for breakfast on weekend mornings. She and her husband, Bob, make light, fluffy homemade waffles. Each one comes out out thick and fresh, simultaneously soft and crunchy. I smother mine in syrup and eat it with gusto as we share stories from our lives.

From tales of growing up in Corona or Bayside, living in Alaska or Ridgewood, books we’re reading or the current state of affairs in America, there is always great food, great conversation, and lots of laughs.

Eleanor and Maria, a few years ago

Eleanor and Maria, a few years ago

From those early days of jelly donuts to my more recent waffle breakfasts, delicious carbs have always equaled good times. The trick for me now is letting myself enjoy a treat every now and then so I don’t go stark raving mad and eat every carb I can lay my hands on.

Here’s one of the many recipes that I found that offers a taste of the best of both worlds. Take the humble waffle and combine it with your favorite donut flavors, and what have you got? The Wonut, of course.

Yum! Wonuts

Yum! Wonuts

This is a pretty clever way to make an easy dessert with your waffle iron. The article above suggests using chocolate and sprinkles, which I love. Here’s the recipe.

I can’t change my love for waffles and donuts. They are so closely intertwined with happy memories for me that I will never be happy without them. Let’s face it: I’m a carb addict, and when a carb addict dreams, they aren’t dreaming of kale and protein drinks.

My carb dreams include Italian bread just pulled from the oven, ready to be slathered in whipped butter; Boston crème donuts (my favorite, and part of my Slim’s Bagels lunch special during my high school years); and Belgian waffles smothered in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate syrup.

Did somebody say wonut?

Did somebody say wonut?

So for now, I’m rewriting the script on my relationship with carbs. They can be in my life, but our love affair has to be redefined. In the wise words of that ear-worm song that Selena Gomez sings, “I’m so sick of that same old love. My body’s had enough!” You said it, sister.

Recipe: Wonut with Sliced Strawberries, Blueberries, and Bananas

Ingredients

Waffle

¼ cup Strawberries

¼ cup Blueberries

½ Banana

1-2 tablespoons whipped cream

Let’s face facts: the Wonut is not a healthy treat. Still, you can enjoy one as long as you add some fiber, vitamins, and minerals (not to mention healthy sugars) along with our carb fix, while slashing the calories.

Strawberries are in season, and I’ve got a ton of them. I also just bought two pints of blueberries, as well as organic bananas. Slice your fruit and put it on top of your wonut/waffle creation. Add a little whipped cream and voila! You’ve got a delicious and satisfying treat that isn’t a total calorie bomb.

Yum

Yum

If you’re desperate for some chocolate, melt some and dip your strawberries. Put them in the refrigerator overnight and they’ll be ready to enjoy in the morning, or anytime. Start with a bar of high quality semisweet or bittersweet baking chocolate. Chop it up into squares. Put it in a microwave safe bowl and place it in the microwave for about a minute on medium high. Stir and repeat at 15 to 20 second intervals until it’s melted and has a smooth consistency. You can use it to dip your fruit or just drizzle a little bit over your wonut for a chocolaty hit.

Good eats

Good eats

For those of us without a waffle iron, here’s a trick: use frozen waffles. Try to get one that is higher in fiber to maximize your fiber intake.

To get the full “wonut” experience, take it out of the fridge and toast it. Then, take a large juice glass, press it into the waffle and make a circular indentation. Pull of the edges so you have a perfect circle. Take a smaller juice glass and press out the middle (less bread = less carbs). Or, buy the kind of waffles that are already round. Add your toppings and enjoy your Wonut. You’ve earned it!

So, Hungry Lifers…what’s your favorite carb-heavy treat? How would you decorate your Wonut? What food combination is your favorite? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

August 24, 2016

8 Great Ways to Pursue Happiness

They look happy

They look happy

I just read an article about happiness that got me thinking.

A Harvard psychologist says that too many people have got this happiness thing all wrong. Instead of sitting around thinking up ways to be happier, the researchers say that you should just go out and live your life. Stop thinking about it! It’s okay to be unhappy, just don’t sit around worrying about how to be happier. The key finding was: in order to find happiness, you have to be okay with being unhappy sometimes. Just accept it. Sometimes, you’re not going to be happy. Embrace it, man! It’s okay. Don’t sweep those bad feelings under the rug. Apparently, the key to a happier life is being emotionally agile and becoming your true, authentic self.

Um…what?

I am no psychologist. I don’t even play one on TV. But I have to ask…do we really need to research this kind of thing? I thought everyone was basically unhappy anyway. To paraphrase another Seinfeld episode (substituting the word happiness for humor) “happiness is like gossamer. One does not dissect gossamer.”

Ready? Here we go...

Ready? Here we go…

So, in the interests of helping the unhappy be more authentic and tap into their happier selves, I’m going to offer my:

8 Great Ways to Pursue Happiness…Or At Least My Version of It

  1. Laugh. A lot. Life can be frustrating, energy draining, infuriating, and disappointing. So what? If you can’t find something to laugh at in the idiocy all around you, you’re just not trying hard enough.
  2. Feed Your Soul. Whether you like to paint waterlilies or sing the entire soundtrack of Grease, do it. You don’t have to be perfect. Just do what you love and that happiness thing will come a’calling.

    Just have fun

    Just have fun

  3. Feed Your Face. Yeah, I’m going there. I’m not suggesting you bury your emotions in a gallon of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, but if you’ve had a rough day and all you want in the whole world is some Chunky Monkey, HAVE IT. Don’t make it bigger than it already is. And the key to not making yourself bigger than you already are is Portion Control. The key word here is control. You’re in charge.
  4. Remember: You’re In Charge. That’s right. No one else is responsible for your happiness. It’s all on you, baby. Own your mistakes. Own your disappointments. Only you can change what makes you unhappy, and only you can identify what you need in your life. So what are you waiting for?
  5. Don’t Ignore Your Inner Cynic. Listen to what he/she has to say, because you will probably learn what you really need from him or her. But by the same token, don’t always listen. Your Inner Cynic is a jerk sometimes.

    Hello, I'm your Inner Cynic

    Hello, I’m your Inner Cynic

  6. Get Out of Your House. And while you’re at it, get out of your head. Want to meet people? Tired of being lonely? Think everyone but you is having a good time? Leave the house! Unless you live in Grand Central Station, chances are all the fun stuff is going on elsewhere. Get out there and find it. Join a bicycle club, running club, baking club, whatever. Don’t go there with the thought: I have to meet my one true love! Go there thinking: I’m sick of watching The Bachelor. Que sera, sera. Just go with it.
  7. Volunteer. It’s true: doing things for others is a really great way to find happiness. Walk dogs at the local shelter (they’re always desperate for help); attend a Special Olympics event and cheer on people who are competing; help the local food pantry stock their shelves. There are a million ways to help other people. Go find one that is meaningful to you and reap the rewards.

    Don't you want to walk me?

    Don’t you want to walk me?

  8. Change the World. Or at least your corner of it. Campaign for a worthy candidate. Raise funds for your school at the next bake sale. Go down the block and clear trash out of your local park. Don’t just sit there waiting for love, romance, happiness, and meaning to come to you. Go find it while you’re not looking for it.

If none of these suggestions work for you, that’s okay. I never said I was a Happiness Guru. It all goes back to #4 (see above). You need to figure out what you can do for YOURSELF. You don’t need to read about ways to make yourself happier. Get lost in pursuing your dreams or making life better for others and that happiness thing will naturally take care of itself.

So good!

So good!

Recipes:

Chunky Monkey Ice Cream

Banana and Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Get that monkey off your back and have some of this delicious ice cream! You can follow these recipes from allrecipes.com as is or make modifications based on reader comments–less sugar, more ripe bananas, etc. Follow your taste buds and I bet you’ll be happy!

So, Hungry Lifers…what’s your favorite way to be happy? Are you in touch with your authentic self? What comfort food makes you smile from ear to ear? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

 

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!

 

 

 

 

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