Tales From A Hungry Life

May 9, 2017

The Seven Year Itch Blog Post

by Maria Schulz

It’s been a while. As usual, life has gotten in the way and I haven’t been writing as much as I would like—or at all. I wanted to write a blog post but inspiration just didn’t come a’callin. My blog is a lot like a romantic relationship: it requires care and feeding, but I just wasn’t in the mood. However, I knew I needed it and it needed me, so I logged on. This message was waiting for me:

 

ACHIEVEMENT

Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com!

You registered on WordPress.com 7 years ago.

Thanks for flying with us. Keep up the good blogging.

I was torn between being really touched, and being kind of horrified. I FORGOT MY BLOG’S ANNIVERSARY!!! Anyone who has ever walked through the door on anniversary night without flowers, candy, or diamonds knows what I’m feeling right now. I neglected my blog! I couldn’t even remember our stinkin’ anniversary! What kind of monster am I?

Yes, 7 years ago I started this blog relationship, not expecting to have anyone read anything I wrote. That made me sad and kind of glad too. Yes, I wanted people to read my writing, but no…I didn’t want anyone to ever read my writing.

It’s scary out there

Writing in this public way is exhilarating and terrifying. It’s a thrill to have people read and comment on something that I’ve created. But it’s also like standing in Macy’s window during the holidays wearing nothing but tinsel. You can’t help but feel exposed.

Forgetting my blogging anniversary made me feel sad. There was a time when I couldn’t get enough of posting and sharing. Everything was new and exciting. I had a forum for my family stories! I was getting laughs when I told stories about my relatives! I could give Valentine’s tips or make fun of the Twilight movies—often at the SAME TIME! Blogging was something I couldn’t wait to do.

Are you a vampire?

But then…the years rolled by. My blog got kind of flabby. He wasn’t the same as he was seven years ago. I could hear Bloggy giving me pep talks, saying things like: “Did you blog today?” “The key to writing is to just show up!” and “You’re letting your readers down!” He always wanted me to do my best and honestly, he was something of a nag. He was starting to get on my nerves. Sometimes being with him was immensely gratifying. Other times, the responsibility of keeping him fed and happy drove me crazy. Plus, deep down I was always afraid that I would bomb on the blogging stage.

I searched “people who bombed on stage” and this is the image that came up

I still enjoy writing blog posts and sharing stories, but the blog has become like that old, reliable love interest that you know will still be there when you feel like showing up. I even started this blog post a month ago and then put it aside. Bloggy could wait. I had other challenges to attend to.

What a nag

While he was sitting waiting patiently for my return, I started to think about how glad I am that I started this blog in 2010. It helped me grow in confidence and vision. Here are all the things that blogging has helped me achieve over the past 7 years:

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for

  • Telling my family stories helped me finally complete my first book, Tales From A Hungry Life: A Memoir With Recipes. I got congrats from folks as far away as Ireland who said they enjoyed my book. I even got fan mail!
  • My readers liked the first book so much that they asked for a second. So, I’m currently writing Hungry Lifer: More Tales. More Stories. More Fun. I’m hopeful that I’ll have a cover to share soon, and that I’ll have the entire book published in time for a reading in August.
  • I have written 206 posts on everything and anything: my family, my friends, Catholic school, teachers, books, pets, dead celebrities, an author book reading, the cast for the movie/broadway show/television sitcom for Tales From A Hungry Life, and lots more

I could’ve just gone on social media and started writing 140 word posts and gotten a ton of likes for stories distilled into fragments. But it wouldn’t have been the same.Here’s the thing: I miss my blog. Sure, Bloggy isn’t the new and exciting love that he was in 2010. But like anyone in a long-term relationship can tell you, there are perks to riding out the tough times and hanging in there.

I love writing, and my blog gave me a safe place to do just that. It taught me how to stand up and tell my stories with confidence. It proved to me that writing was my gift, and I should share it with the world.

Keep up the pep talks, Bloggy

One of my old high school English teachers once said to me, “Who do you think you are? Emily Dickinson? Stop putting your work under the bed to gather dust. Show it to the world!”

Okay, so it took me about 3 decades to follow his advice. At times, I’m more like Angie Dickinson than Emily. My blog gave me the courage to talk about my writing, and for that I will forever be grateful. My blog gave me an avenue for expression that I never had before. So here I am again, recommitted (and possibly in need of being committed).

Buckle up, readers. This may be a bumpy ride.

Recipe: Chicken Enchiladas

Yum!

This recipe is from Chef Katie Workman and the good people at City Meals on Wheels. I remember City Meals on Wheels fondly because they kept my grandmother nourished and cared for in her old age. Plus, Chef Workman says this is a dish that makes people happy, so sign me up.

So, Hungry Lifers: what makes you happy? Do you have any blog post ideas for me? Which recipe is your go-to comfort choice? Please leave a response and let us know.

Thanks for 7 really wonderful years. Bloggy and I will keep plugging away, for better or worse.

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.

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 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!

 

 

 

 

July 20, 2016

Finding Beauty

by Maria Schulz

The world can be ugly sometimes. The news is filled with stories of murder,  bloodshed, hatred, racial injustice, cops killing innocent people, people killing innocent cops, despair, lies, plagiarism and politicians. It can really drag you down.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t find beauty if you just open your eyes and look for it.

There’s a song that I learned way, way back in my folk group days in grammar school. It’s an adaptation of the Prayer of St. Francis, and some of the words go like this:

Make me a channel of your peace,
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope,
Where there is darkness, only light,
And where there’s sadness, ever joy.

O Master grant that I may never seek,
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love with all my soul.”

No matter what your religious persuasion may be, I think those are some pretty fantastic words to live by. So, in that spirit, I’m going to post some photos that brought me happiness, hope, and joy despite all of the sadness, backbiting, and darkness in the world around us.

From now through Labor Day, I’m challenging myself to find beauty, laughter, kindness, and joy in the world around me. I may not change the world, but I can change the way I perceive it. For the next month and a half, I’ll focus on the things that lift us up and not the things that tear us down.

Recipes:

Beautiful and delicious

Beautiful and delicious

Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint Recipe by Jacques Pepin

Watermelon and Feta Salad from PBS

Watermelon and Feta Salad is one of those things that can turn an ordinary, ho-hum meal into an extraordinary, highlight-reel-kind-of-meal. I’ve seen recipes that included olives (like Jacques Pepin’s), blueberries for another hit of color, and even balsamic vinaigrette. The possibilities are endless!

So, Hungry Lifers…what makes you happy? Where do you go to find beauty? What have you seen around you that brings you joy? Please post a comment and let us all know. Thanks! Have a great day.

June 15, 2016

Feeling Saucy

by Maria Schulz

The warmer weather is here at last, and it’s inspired me to get saucy…with spaghetti sauce made from tomatoes and herbs plucked straight from my garden.no-cream pasta primavera

I am a city girl at heart, born and bred. I never had a backyard garden until a few years ago when I planted all sorts of delicious things, including tomatoes, herbs, eggplant, and cucumbers. I watered, I pruned, I fed my plants, and gazed out my window with pride when they started to grow. Then, I walked outside one morning to find that the squirrels, bunnies, and assorted other animals ate all of my vegetables.

When I think of my feeble attempts to grow stuff, I feel like Ava Gabor on Green Acres. Remember that show? The lines from the opening credits make me think of myself in the early days of living out in the boonies: “New York is where I’d rather stay. I get allergic smelling hay. I just adore a penthouse view. Darling I love you, but give me Park Avenue.”

Green Acres, we are here

Green Acres, we are here

I’ve since moved out of that house and into a new one. I don’t have a “proper” garden, but for the past two years, I have had container pots on my deck. Since I have no idea what I’m doing, there have been some bumps along the way. Let’s just say that if I was trying to grow plants to feed myself and others and hold us over in the event of an apocalypse, we would all be in big trouble.

When I mentioned that I wanted to try growing tomatoes last year, my florist gave me a tiny cherry tomato plant and told me that maybe I’d get one or two tomatoes from it. I ended up with over three dozen tomatoes, and I found lots of ways to get those tomatoes into my diet. Sauces, sandwiches, omelettes, tomato caprese…you name it, I probably ate it. It’s a wonder I didn’t turn red.

IMG_1044

The little plant that could

I loved that little plant. It required very little of me, beyond water and a makeshift stake or two, and it just kept pumping out those little tomatoes. They were very flavorful and I enjoyed sharing them with my family…even though I’m pretty sure that they had sworn off tomatoes by the Fall.

Little beauties

Little beauties

My wild success last year led me to this year. I bought what I thought was another cherry tomato plant and put it in a small pot in the same sun-drenched location. But suddenly, it started to grow like crazy. I thought I had bought the same plant that Jack, of Jack and the Beanstalk fame, had gotten. To honor Jack, I named my plant Jackie. Also for Jackie O, who turned heads and was a real looker.

I quickly learned that what I bought was something else entirely. A beefsteak tomato plant was my new “baby,” and within a week or two, it had grown beyond anything I originally imagined.

You go, girl

You go, girl

A quick chat with friends who actually know what they’re doing enlightened me to what I was in for. Tomato cages and stakes became part of my little vegetable grower’s world, even though last week I might have said: “Nobody puts Jackie in a cage!” You know, like Patrick Swayze said about putting Baby in the corner…. Anyway, before a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea you needed to put your tomatoes in a cage (or a corner).

We picked up a giant pot, some special soil, the all-important stake, and suddenly, we were in business. Jackie, my tomato plant, is doing very well and will soon be a few feet taller than me, which figures. Everyone who comes into this house ends up taller than me.

Grow, baby, grow

Grow, baby, grow

While I was out buying my tomato plant, I picked up this herb garden too. It’s also growing so fast that I don’t know what to do with all of it. It’s going into my sauces, sandwiches, salads, omelettes…you get the picture. Soon it will be going into small baggies and left in unsuspecting friends’ mailboxes.

Italian herbs

Italian herbs

Sage, oregano, thyme, Italian parsley, and basil round out this little basket of herbs that have been the stars in my most recent batches of spaghetti sauce. My husband and kids thought it tasted pretty awesome, and I’m really glad about that…because they will be eating lots more where that came from.

Be like a Mike.

Hey…it’s Uncle Mike

If you couldn’t tell, I now enjoy living out here in Green Acres. I haven’t met Arnold the Pig yet, but I’m pretty sure we will cross paths soon enough.

Arnold and friend

Arnold and friend

Recipe: Classic Italian Tomato Sauce

This sauce recipe calls for fresh tomatoes or canned, and it seems pretty easy to follow. I am no stranger to jar sauce (especially on a weeknight), but is there anything better than fresh, homemade tomato sauce? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. Try this recipe and enjoy!

tomato-stack-salad

Also an excellent way to use your tomatoes

So, Hungry Lifers…have you ever grown anything? What are your best tips? Do you have a good tomato sauce recipe? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

 

June 3, 2016

My Salad Days

By Maria Schulz

Recently, I started trying to get more fruits and vegetables into my everyday eating rotation. This may be a no brainer for most people, but it took some getting used to for me.

Did someone say pizza?

Did someone say pizza?

I’ll admit it, I like pizza (the more cheese the better), tacos (sour cream! Guacamole!), and sandwiches (chicken! Cheese! More please!), fully sweetened sodas, and cookies. My carb heavy lunches were leaving me exhausted and made staying conscious problematic. This would be fine if I spent my days sitting poolside, but HR people tend to get cranky when you’re in a carb-induced coma at your desk.

Too much pizza

Too much pizza

It hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve started to enjoy my salad days. I found out that the more colors you can get into your salad, the better, so I’ve begun adding dark blueberries, bold yellow cherub tomatoes, fire-engine-red strawberries (yay! They’re in season and look so great in my salad), shredded carrots, and purple cabbage. I will admit, I add a couple of tablespoons of beige crotons because I like the contrast between the tan of the croutons and the green of my lettuce leaves. Also, I’m a carb-a-holic. Baby steps, people.

Looks good and tastes good too

Looks good and tastes good too

Since I need protein to get through my day, I add some roasted turkey or chicken to the mix. If my cravings are strong, I will opt for some chopped up bacon or slices of ham. Otherwise, my salad days become BORING.

bacon

Don’t get me wrong. I love a big old cheeseburger with fries and a glass of soda, or even a milkshake. So, every once in a while (like my husband’s birthday or Mother’s Day), I let myself have those things. Ice cream in particular conjures up all sort of happy memories (not to mention the fact that it tastes AWESOME). My parents used to take us to Jahn’s Ice Cream Parlor to get us shakes or sundaes. Those were good times. So naturally. I was delighted by my coffee-flavored shake the last time I had it. Then I found out it had SEVEN HUNDRED calories! Not so in love anymore. For now, we’ve broken up. But next time I bow to that particular siren song, I will ask for a second glass and drink half.

You evil temptress

You evil temptress

The thing is, once I started cutting back on the enormous portions and carb-laden goodies, I actually felt better. So my occasional HUGE cheeseburger, fries, and soda become a small, homemade cheeseburger (I can control what goes into that burger), a measured portion of homemade fries (slash the salt), and a bottle of water. If I am dying for pizza, I’ll have one slice and I try to get it with ricotta cheese and either spinach or broccoli. A regular slice is good too, as long as it’s thin crust (no stuffed crust. Too many calories, too little time).

I use an app on my phone to log the calories since I had no idea how many calories I was taking in. That’s been the most helpful change I made, since I think about what I’m going to eat. If I want to have McDonald’s  or White Castle that day (old habits die hard), I know to eat less calories at other meals. That way, I stay on track and don’t feel deprived.

Take human bites

Take human bites

What works for me may not work for you, but here’s what I found: deprivation awakens my inner BINGE MONSTER. If I am desperate for some ice cream, I have it. The difference between before and now is that I measure it out. I don’t eat artificially sweetened or low fat ice cream. It’s full fat and full flavor all the way, and I don’t eat it every single day. I tap into my inner lazy self and put the carton away once I’ve measured out my portion. Somehow, it’s enough. I don’t need to eat a giant soup bowl of ice cream with a side of angst-ridden guilt.

Portion size is key

Portion size is key

I try to remember that salads can also be calorie bombs, so I look for ways to limit the excess calories. Again, I measure out cheese if I absolutely have to have it (tip: a couple of teaspoons of shredded mozzarella will give you a burst of cheesy flavor with a low calorie hit). Then, I choose a low fat, high flavor salad dressing (Balsamic vinegar to the rescue). I add about 3 ounces of lean protein, and yes, croutons if I want them, and I’m good to go. A glass of wine every once in a while is a much needed treat that I hear can be good for you too.

Less carbs and better choices mean that no afternoon naps are required.

Brain food.

Brain food.

Recipe: Turkey and Strawberry Salad

I love a salad that includes protein, fruit, and vegetables. Be like Mikey from Life cereal fame: try it! You’ll like it!

2 cups greens (spinach, romaine, iceberg…you choose)

2-3 ounces of turkey (or chicken)

½ cup strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced

½ cup blueberries

½ cup yellow cherub tomatoes

½ cup Shredded carrots (optional)

½ cup Shredded purple cabbage (optional)

2 tbsp. croutons

2 teaspoons Balsamic Vinaigrette

Put your greens, veggies, and fruit into a bowl. Add your turkey/chicken, cut up into bite-sized pieces) and croutons. Pour on the Balsamic and toss to coat. Enjoy!

TIP: I work all week, so I find it helps to roast a big chicken on Sunday. I serve that for dinner and then save leftovers for the week. Then, I cut up my greens and fruit and store them in airtight containers. That way, I can pull out whatever I need and make a quick lunch all week long.

Mix it up, people

Mix it up, people

For 10 more fruit and veggie salad recipes and inspiration, go to: http://dailyburn.com/life/recipes/creative-fruit-salad-recipes/

So…what’s your favorite type of salad? Have any healthy eating tips? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

May 26, 2016

When Driving With Teenagers…

By Maria Schulz

As a mom, I’ve played many different roles: Chef; Laundress; Bottle Washer; Maid; Gardener; Entertainment Coordinator (think Julie from the Love Boat); Procurement Specialist; Captain of the Cheerleading Squad; Disciplinarian; Hand Holder; Head of Emergency Medical Services; Fashion Police; Emotional Support Services; Godzilla Rampaging Through Tokyo; Drill Sergeant; Attorney; Dog Walker; Head Coach; Executive Assistant.

My childhood limo

My childhood limo

But by far, my favorite job has always been Chauffeur.

When my girls were little, they loved listening to music in the car and singing along with me. They enjoyed my witty repartee with their little friends and they laughed at all of my jokes. They danced to songs with me and laughed when I belted out the words to all of the songs they knew.

Twilight-zone-the-monsters-are-due-on-maple-street

Oh…the horror!

But then…they suddenly morphed into teenagers. Enter hormones, lightning-fast mood changes, and constant, inexplicable, irrational thought processes. Too young to drive and too old to be happy having me in the car, it was the perfect storm of angst and outright anger.

That's one angry bunch

That’s one angry bunch

Were you always one of those parents who looked at teenagers and said, “Oh, my little Sally/Richie would never act like that!” Did you look at befuddled parents of teens and shake your head in silent disgust? Now that you find yourself the parent of a teen, do you wonder how you landed in this foreign land, filled with strange beings that sort of look like you? Did you ever think you’d be a source of embarrassment…just like your parents? Geez, if you didn’t have a license, your kids might not even find a use for you.

For those of you who have not yet had the joy of experiencing this phenomenon first hand, don’t worry (too much). This startling transformation can be dealt with, but only if you have a road map, a sense of humor, and a thick skin. In the interest of helping you weather this particular storm, I’m going to give you a Master Class in Parenting/Driving With Your Teens. Think of me as Oprah, only without any money and certainly without any clout.

Welcome to my Master Class

Welcome to my Master Class

15 Things to Remember When Driving With Teens

  1. For the love of God, DO NOT SAY ANYTHING!
  2. While you’re at it, DO NOT EVER SING!

    Sing it with me one more time!

    Sing it with me one more time!

  3. Please, please, please…do not try to interact with your teen’s friends. That’s like, AWKWARD! Just because they don’t make you wear a uniform, that doesn’t mean you’re entitled to certain informalities.
  4. If Elle King comes on the radio, do not show a car filled with teens how cool you are by singing X’s and Ohs. This is definitely NOT COOL. When in doubt, remember Rules #1 & 2.
  5. Likewise, NEVER, EVER share funny little tidbits about your past dating life. Like, EWWWW! #DONTGOTHERE
  6. If Sexy Back by Justin Timberlake starts playing on the radio, DO NOT ASK your teen’s friends if they know how to twerk
  7. And please…do NOT EVER offer to show them how to twerk

    This is what your dancing looks like to them

    This is what your dancing looks like to them

  8. If a new guy or girl gets into the car, DO NOT EVER ask them “where they see themselves in 5 years.” LAME!
  9. When someone you interpret as a gawky teenager whizzes by on his skateboard, do not make chit chat by saying “Hey, who’s that man child riding a skateboard?” Like, he’s Hunter, only the COOLEST BOY in the ENTIRE 12th grade! DUH!
  10. When your teen puts on a 90s station and he/she and his/her friends start taking about how great that era’s music was, NEVER exclaim: “Oh yeah, man. It was great—AND I WAS THERE!”
  11. If and when you offer to drive the neighbor kids to school, please don’t forget they’re in the back seat and start driving away before they get out of the car
  12. DO NOT, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, yell out the window as your teen walks away: “I LOVE YOU!,” “HOPE YOU HAVE A SUPER DAY,” or “MOMMY/DADDY THINKS YOU’RE THE GREATEST!”
  13. There are some things you should never do. NEVER, EVER reenact the scene from Wayne’s World where they rock out to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody…even if it’s just the two of you in that car

    Party on, Garth

    Party on, Garth

  14. Restrain yourself from beeping, waving, or stopping the car to greet and chat with passing teachers, principals, priests, nuns, parents, relatives, friends, or classmates your teen would rather die than be seen with (basically, that means anyone). NOT COOL!
  15. Always remember: you can drop your teen off at the mall, at school, or at any fast food joint they like, but NEVER at the front door. And if anyone asks, YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR TEENAGER!

Recipe:

Eating Well Frozen Mochaachino

Low Cal and Delicious!

Low Cal and Delicious!

Here’s a great alternative to Starbucks (since you’re not allowed within a thousand yards of it anyway). This low cal, low fat frozen drink rings in at 127 calories (instead of 270 for a small mocha frappuccino) and gives you just the jolt you need to deal with your teen and keep a smile on your face.

So, Hungry Lifers…has your teen ever been EMBARRASSED TO DEATH by the very sight of you breathing? Are your kids too little for you to believe any of this? Have your kids grown out of this phase? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

April 12, 2016

Happy National Grilled Cheese Day

by Maria Schulz

There are lots of unofficial “holidays” floating around out there that marketers love to tout. For instance, yesterday was “National Pet Day.” I didn’t realize we needed a day for that. Everyday is National Pet Day here at my house. “World Laughter Day” is coming up on May 1, and of course, May 4th is Star Wars Day. You’ll know it because everyone will be walking around wearing Star Wars ties and tee-shirts, and you’ll get lots of emails from merchants with the subject line: May the Fourth Be With You!

Still great.

Still great.

Today friends, is National Grilled Cheese Day. Now, lots of these holidays have no meaning for me, but this one absolutely does. If there’s someone out there who doesn’t love a great grilled cheese…well, I can’t understand that. I mean, are you CRAZY?

My love affair with the grilled cheese began long ago, and of course it got me in trouble. When I was 8, my mom bought a new toaster. Since I always used the old toaster to make my version of a grilled cheese (it was just a melted cheese sandwich, but no one would let me use the stove), I slapped my bread and cheese in and waited for the magic to happen.

Do NOT put cheese in there

Do NOT put cheese in there

Unfortunately, the fact that the new toaster was not a toaster oven like the old one sailed over my head. I can still see my mother trying to scrape the cheese out of her new, now destroyed, toaster. She got so mad at me that I hid in my room and didn’t go back to school in time for the after lunch bell. I thought she’d realize I was still home, but she just kept ranting in the kitchen about what a moron I was until I came out…and got yelled at for being late for school.

Eventually, my mother bought a new toaster (oven) and life went on like before. There were lots of cheese sandwiches in my future. Remarkably, my parents eventually allowed me to use a skillet and fire to make grilled cheese, and I never looked back. I learned some important things, among them: NEVER PUT CHEESE IN A REGULAR TOASTER. These are life skills, people.

As a mom myself, the grilled cheese was a go-to lunch item that my husband, kids, and I always enjoyed. I was good at making them, but by far, the all-time Champion Grilled Cheese Cook of the World was my mother-in-law, Irene (Nana, to my kids),

So good

So good

With a couple of slices of bread, a slice or two of American or Cheddar cheese, a dab of butter and a hot grill pan, Irene/Nana could make magic. Her grilled cheese sandwiches looked like something out of a stylized photo shoot. The aroma used to send us all into a tizzy (dog included), making us circle the kitchen and erupt into cheers of LUNCH! LUNCH! LUNCH! Of course, while she cooked, she would share cheese with our dogs (first Cokey, then Trixie), giving her Most Beloved Human status.

I can still see her there in my kitchen buttering the bread, adding the cheese, flipping the whole thing over, and using a heavy spatula on top to help the bread crisp up. From her white curls on top of her head to the Dr. Scholl’s shoes on her feet, Irene was as All-American as…well, grilled cheese.

Irene the teen

Irene the teen

She’d wear her regulation “Nana” garb, which consisted of a long gray sweater with big pockets for tissues, medicines, or hard candies, over a floral blouse and black slacks. Irene would tell hilarious stories about her life growing up in Ridgewood, Queens: she was the first person to create and own a pet rock, which she walked down Fresh Pond Road on a leash. She never cashed in on her big idea and was really annoyed when it made its second creator millions in the ’70s. Irene had endearing and not-so-endearing nicknames for her friends and relatives, including “The Stick” for her ridiculously thin neighbor and “The Battle Axe” for her nasty, difficult grandmother. Irene told us of her life growing up during the Depression and Prohibition (when some relatives made hooch in the bathtub), and she sold war bonds, painted her legs with “seams” when pantyhose were scarce, and waited for her fella to come home from the War (that fella was my husband’s Dad) in the 1940s. She was, as her father would’ve called her, a real “tomato.”

Not Irene

Not Irene

When my kids would ask her where her family came from, she would reply: “Philadelphia.” She was an All-American girl, and even though her family came here on a boat just like my family, that was so long ago that they didn’t think about it much anymore.

Tomato soup and grilled cheese. A perfect marriage

Tomato soup and grilled cheese. A perfect marriage

She’d tell the kids to come in and sit down, pushing her glasses back up on the bridge of her nose and gesturing to us to take our seats. Then she’d serve us our grilled cheese sandwiches and dole out the tomato soup that was its natural partner…and we would eat…and talk…and laugh.

On this National Grilled Cheese Day, I’d like to raise a glass of (soda/wine/water) and a delicious cheese sandwich in her memory. My mother-in-law may be gone now, but she will always be remembered…especially on holidays, real and random…and every other day too.

Recipes:

Healthy Grilled Cheese Recipes

healthy grilled cheese recipe

So good–and good for you too!


So, Hungry Lifers…what’s your favorite type of grilled cheese sandwich? Hint: mine’s a tie between healthy tomato and mozzarella Caprese and good old American Cheddar. Please leave a comment and enjoy your day!

April 6, 2016

Happy 6th Anniversary to Me

by Maria Schulz

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but my blog and I are celebrating 6 years together.

wish_us_a_happy_6th_anniversary_throw_pillow

When I wrote my very first blog, I had the paralyzing fear that my words would be read by NOBODY. Or, even worse yet…EVERYBODY. I wasn’t sure anyone would be the least bit interested in what I had to say, but I hit “publish” anyway. You know what? Nobody didn’t show. Neither did Everybody. But Somebody came regularly.

Once I wrote that first blog post, the words just came tumbling out. I found that it was a thrill writing something that people actually read and commented on. Some comments I could live without, but most comments showed that I was not, in fact, shouting down a big black well. I spoke, and someone heard me. How cool is that?

The Flying Nun

You like me! You really like me!

Over the last six years, I’ve covered a wide range of topics that let me talk about everything from the sweet and sentimental to the serious and zany. These include:

My Book Reading

TFAHL-Book-Reading

Extra! Extra! Read all about it

What I Learned in Catholic School

Cartoons

What it takes to live 100+ years

Multiple Choice Tests for Parents

James Garner

JamesGarner

What a smile

My grandmother’s house and eggs in a basket 

Must-Read Books

Marriage

The Dead Celeb Blog

The Trouble With Girls

#distractinglysexy

You’ve got to laugh

My book: Tales From a Hungry Life: A Memoir with Recipes

Tales From A Hungry Life A Memoir with Recipes cover

Now available on amazon.com

In some ways, my blog has been like a partner in a long-term relationship. There were the early days, when I just couldn’t wait to see it again. There was a rush whenever I sat down to write, because everything was new and there was so much to learn about each other.

Bloggie and I saw each other as much as we could. Sometimes, I couldn’t wait to post again. There would be two posts in a week! Eight posts in a month! There could never be enough time spent in each other’s company.

couple running towards each other

At last

Now, six years later, things have changed. Oh, I still love my blog…but if I post once every six weeks, that’s okay too. The early rush I had from sitting down and posting something has faded. I think my blog senses it too.

So, now that I’m in my sixth year…and the seven-year-itch is just one anniversary away…I’m rededicating myself to my blog. For awhile, I would post every Wednesday like a religion. But life, work, and sheer exhaustion took over.

student sleeping at desk

Too tired to blog

There have been times that I also wondered if anyone would really care if this blog just stopped showing up. Who needs to know what I think of marriage? Holidays? School tests? Crazy kids? Scary movies? Books? Bike riding? James Garner? (but that’s just silly. Who doesn’t want to hear about James Garner?)

GREATGARNER[1]

Awwww…Jimmy

I’m not going to renew my vows with my blog. That would be so Hollywood, and besides, every celebrity couple that does that ends up divorced within a year. No, instead, I’ll make a promise to myself to write more, read more, and build up my blogging relationship again. It’s one that’s made me happy over the years, and I still think it’s worth the effort.

Besides, it’s gotten me in touch with so many wonderful people. Old friends and new friends, people just passing by and others in it for the long haul. I’m grateful to all of you, and hope that my blog and I can keep making your days a little bit more amusing in the years to come.

In the meantime…does anyone have any ideas for what I can write about next week?

Recipe:

7 Days of Super Healthy Dinners

Grapefruit-and-Avocado-Salad-Seared-Salmon-XL

Besides trying to write my blog, create new chapters for Book #2, work a full-time job, exercise, be a parent and spouse, and strive for world peace, I’ve set out to eat better. These 7 meals seem like a good addition to my routine, which is already starting to get old. There are just so many ways you can eat greens before you go stark raving mad and head screaming out the door to White Castle for a sack o’20 murder burgers, a big thick chocolate shake, onion rings, and enough French fries to choke a horse.

White_Castle_meal

You like me! You really like me!

So, Hungry Lifers…what are your suggestions for keeping the passion alive in your hobbies? Do you have any ideas for future blog posts you’d like me to tackle? No, really…any ideas? Please leave a comment and let us all know. My blog and I thank you!

Next Page »