Tales From A Hungry Life

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!

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January 28, 2015

Welcome To My Snow Coma

by Maria Schulz

The last few days around here were filled with dire warnings about the blizzard that was on its way. The meteorologists got so excited, they even gave it a name: Blizzard Juno. I don’t remember anything but hurricanes getting names when I was a kid. My how times have changed. I would’ve loved that a hundred years ago! Believe it or not there was a time when I thought that there was nothing better than a blizzard. That was back in the day when I could look forward to things like:

Gene Gene The Dancing Machine & Chuckie B dance!

Gene Gene The Dancing Machine & Chuckie B dance!

  • No School: who doesn’t like a snow day when they’re a kid? I loved being able to sleep late, watch The Gong Show at 12:30 pm, and not even have to run back to class before I found out who won the “unusual prize” of $516.32
  • Making a snowman. My kids had a snow man kit that they loved that included a corn cob pipe, top hat, jaunty scarf, coal eyes and a fake carrot nose. We made a game of finding sticks that could double as arms, preferably with twigs that resembled fingers. Of course, when I was young, no one that I knew had any such kit, so our snow men usually wore whatever hat we could lay our hands on, a bubble pipe, button eyes if we could in fact find any, and any old rag that could double as a scarf. We couldn’t even find sticks that resembled arms, much less ones with twig fingerssnowman
  • Sleigh riding, minus the sleigh. We barely had a hat for our snow man, much less a real, unbroken sled. Garbage lids worked well, and so did the broken sled that you couldn’t steer or stop in any way. What were those cars doing out anyway?
  • Bumper jumping: since I’m a good girl, I will say that I never, ever went bumper jumping. That’s mainly because my mother filled my head with lots of stories about those “bad” kids who latched onto a bumper and promptly got trapped under the back of the car, only to meet their sad, sorry deaths. When I was young, I bought this, because I believed everything my mother told me. However, as I got older, I realized there were lots of stories about girls being dragged to their deaths whenever they were doing something my mother didn’t want me to do, including riding a motorcycle, roller skating while tethered to the back of my brother’s bikes, or bumper jumping. But there was a “bad girl” in the grade below me that wrote dirty poems on the bathroom stalls, mouthed off to the nuns, and was a champion bumper jumper. Kathy H, you live on in my memory for your incredible bumper jumping skills and your suicidal tendencies when it came to the nuns. Brava!football
  • Touch football, or on really icy days, full contact football. My favorite games had rosters that included Jude, Cindy, Louie, Paul, Joey, Chris, me, and our next door neighbor, Anthony. No one expected me to be any good, because after all, I was short, fat, and a girl. Cindy got a pass because she was pretty. I shocked everyone because I could catch and run…especially since I was the only one smart enough to wear snow boots. My legendary touchdown run from the corner of 214th street to the lamppost in front of Mrs. McG’s house still makes me wonder why my football days are over
  • Snow Angels: watch me! Watch me! I can lay on this here cold, freezing snow, wave my arms like a lunatic, and when I get up, it will look just like the Archangel Gabriel (there’s a little Catholic schoolgirl humor for you). Which, by the way, was my second miracle! Could sainthood be far off for me? For those of you who read this blog (besides my father), you may recall that my first miracle was surviving Catholic school to begin with. And by that, I mean mainly not getting decapitated by the nuns with their samurai swords, err, yardsticks
  • Watching out the window for the first snowflakes to fall, singing: Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!
  • Hanging out in my Mick Jagger loving friend’s room, listening to Sympathy for the Devil. Or Mother’s Little Helper. Or 19th Nervous Breakdown. Or Brown Sugar! At other friends’ houses, it might be Jessie’s Girl, Church of the Poison Mind, or Time Warp from Rocky Horror Motion Picture Show. We had to stay inside because we were too old to make snow angels or go bumper jumping…even though that’s what we would’ve really liked to do

    He's got the moves like Jagger

    I’ve got the moves like Jagger

Unfortunately, my last few days passed in a “The Blizzard is Coming! The Blizzard is Coming”-induced coma that included:

Such a troublemaker

Such a troublemaker

  • A raging head cold, body aches, fever, and nausea that made me really cranky and in no mood whatsoever for bumper jumping
  • Eye-balling all the trees in my yard, and praying that none of them would make a midnight visit upon my head while I slept thanks to the predicted 50 mile per hour winds
  • Snow that managed to be powdery AND weigh about a ton when you had to shovel it Also great for walking your dog in case you want to lose him/her in a snow bank

    Think happy thoughts

    Think happy thoughts

  • Visions of no electricity for another 3 weeks dancing in my head
  • Fears of ending up stranded in my car on the side of the LIE under an avalanche of snow when my office refused to close early and I had to drive home in white out conditions
  • Days and days of gearing up for the HISTORIC SNOWSTORM that necessitated getting all of the milk, bread and eggs we could stuff into our carts…because, as my husband said, we desperately need it for our Emergency French Toast

    Once more, with feeling

    Once more, with feeling

  • Standing by the window saying, “Blizzard Juno, Blizzard Juno…wherefore art thou, Blizzard Juno?” I have to tell you, it’s loads of fun living with an English major
  • Cabin fever/real fever dreams that had me dancing to Mother’s Little Helper, Church of the Poison Mind, and Jessie’s Girl. Hey, some things never change.
Perfect for snow emergencies

Perfect for snow emergencies

RECIPE: EMERGENCY FRENCH TOAST!

Actually, this is just a simple French toast recipe from Robert Irvine that I found on Food Network, but I thought my husband’s suggestion was a great one. Use the eggs, milk, and bread you’ve got to make any snow day fun again.

FYI: Snowmageddon has come and gone, and we are all safe and sound. Here’s a big shout out to my DH (darling husband, not designated hitter) and my DD (darling daughters) for taking care of me while I was sick. Now that I’m better, I just want to say: I’ll be outside with my football and snow boots, if anyone wants to play.

So, Hungry Lifers…what’s your favorite snow day memory? How much snow did you get? Did you have your Emergency French Toast? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

May 2, 2014

The Name Game

by Maria Schulz

As Mother’s Day approaches, I think about the anticipation I felt as a pregnant “mom-to-be.” I was so excited and eager. Those 9 months made me feel just like I did when I was a little kid, counting down the days to Christmas. Of course, the most exciting part of all was that I was going to be in charge of naming my baby. What power! What fun! What a rush, man.

Like waiting for my Christmas gifts

Like waiting for my Christmas gifts

And it was, for a little while. But then my husband and I couldn’t agree on anything. He’d suggest a name; I’d say no. I’d suggest a name; he’d say no. I was kind of terrified that both of my kids would be named This and That or Constant and Incessant.

Bringing a new life into the world is the kind of thing that brings out every lunatic. Everyone wants to touch your belly (especially strangers) and people who never even looked twice at you before will openly stare at you. These same people also smile a lot at you the whole time you are pregnant, and say things like: “Wow! You’re huge!” Or “I bet you never thought you’d get this fat.” By the way, those people stop smiling when your child is six months old and, in their words, you “haven’t lost the baby fat yet, huh?”

My favorite intrusive behavior of all was when people would say, “What are you going to name your baby?”

I was young and innocent the first time, so I would answer truthfully. But I quickly learned that people didn’t care if they offended me and belittled my choices, since I was now apparently public domain. Later, after they suggested a name I wouldn’t give my dog, they would browbeat me for not liking it, and then rub my belly and tell me to make the baby kick, like it was a parlor trick.

Or Dorito.

Or Dorito.

The second time around, I would give them fake names. I would say my chosen names were: Ezekiel. Fawcett. Gulliver. El Senor. Dorito. Pharaoh. Miles Standish. Esmeralda. Then I’d run away before they had the chance to touch me or feel my baby, who kicked twenty-four hours a day, but under no circumstances would I let them feel it.

One night after dinner, my mother-in-law said, “Can I play the Name Game?” and before I could say yes or no, she started blurting out names.

“How about George? Raymond? Shelly? Charlotte? Joe? Ursula? Gertrude? Agnes?”

Shelly or Charlotte Schulz just didn’t work for me; our family already had a George, Raymond and Joe; and Ursula was a no go. But it was “Agnes” that broke the last straw of my aching, camel look-alike’s back. I got up, shook my mother-in-law’s hand, and said:

“Thanks for playing the Name Game. We’re sorry, but you’ve given the wrong answer. However, we do have some lovely parting gifts for you! Thanks and goodbyeeeeeee!”

A lovely parting gift

Makes a lovely parting gift

Eventually, my husband and I agreed on names for our kids, which was (for us at least) right up there with parting the red sea or changing water into wine. I figured I could trot that fact out one day when I was under consideration for sainthood. Hopefully, they’ll accept both of those instances as two separate miracles.

My parents made a baby-naming bargain before they even had kids. Dad would name the boys, and Mom would name the girls. Poor Mom… Five boys later and no girl in sight, she was only given nominal veto power over the names Dad chose.

When the doctor told her she was expecting twins, she thought maybe she would hit the jackpot and get to name TWO, count ‘em, TWO girls. That’s when my two grandmothers started to lobby for their favorite names.

“How about Isabella, for my mother?” Puerto Rican grandma said

“How about Angelena, for me?” Italian grandma said.

“Oh you’ll never have a girl,” helpful relatives said.

My mother was ready with her two girl names when I came along, but my brother was born five minutes later and my father asserted his naming rights. I’m kind of glad, though, because he really does look like Christopher, and not so much like Lucy.

Not my sister

Not my sister

Now you may be wondering, what made me think of this? I may be years removed from my baby-naming phase of life, but that doesn’t keep me from searching baby naming sites since I’m always looking for character names. That’s when I came across this article:

Couple Asks the Internet to Name Their Baby

http://globalnews.ca/news/1263872/website-named-baby-born-to-kelowna-couple/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/22/name-my-daughter_n_5190770.html?icid=maing-grid7%7Caim%7Cdl39%7Csec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D467924

The Dad, who is Internet savvy, was hoping to get some inspiration from those wacky folks who hang out on the old inter-web. I hope he’s a glutton for punishment, because here are some of the suggestions:

Megatron

Cthulhu

Amelia

Zelda

Not-Zelda

Luna

Streetlamp

Charlotte (maybe my mother-in-law voted)

Laquisha

Slagathor

And that’s just for the first name! So what was the most popular first name on the site? It was Cthulhu.

Ct-hoolu-WHAT? I had to look this one up. Cthulhu is a fictional cosmic bad boy that first appeared in H.P. Lovecraft’s short story, “The Call of Cthulu,” published in 1928 in Weird Tales magazine. Lovecraft described Cthulhu as a “monstrous alien god who will devour us all,” and one who “lies dead and dreaming of his return.”

If that’s not a great name for a brand new baby, I don’t know what is.

So warm and cuddly

So warm and cuddly

An entire cult of Cthulhu devotees has sprung up, and apparently they hoped to get baby naming rights from someone silly enough to ask their opinion.

So what, you may ask, were the favorite middle names?

All-Spark

Of-the-Sea (First name? Chicken)

Le-Dash-A

Salad

Pond (First name: Jump The)

Perfect for the nursery

Perfect for the nursery

Some other popular Internet-inspired choices that seem to be gaining traction include:

Hashtag (“Hashtag, meet your new friend, Cthulhu!”)

Facebook (You have some nerve invading my privacy. Who do you think you are, Facebook?)

Like (Thumbs up, Like! I really, really, really like you, Like.)

@ (Where you at, @?)

By the way, the parents who asked for the world’s baby naming opinions just welcomed a healthy, beautiful little girl into the world.

And her name is...

And her name is…

Best of luck to you, Cthulhu All-Spark!

Just kidding…her parents named her Amelia Savannah Joy.

I wonder why?

Recipe:

Here’s a great recipe for your next baby shower, or any warm weather party.

Good with or without the duckies

Good with or without the duckies

Sherbet Shower Surprise

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Sherbet-Shower-Surprise/Detail.aspx?evt19=1

10 Baby Shower Treats

http://www.food.com/slideshow/10-baby-shower-treats-226/baby-rattle-cupcakes-1

So sweet!

So sweet!

These cute recipes include a watermelon “baby carriage,” more punch recipes, baby rattle cupcakes, candy baby pacifiers and more.

So Hungry Lifers…what’s your favorite “Name Game” story? Aren’t intrusive strangers fun? Got any great recipes for showers or parties? Please leave a comment and tell us all about it. Thanks!

January 15, 2014

Author? Yes, Author

by Maria Schulz

Now available on amazon.com

Now available on amazon.com

As many of you know, I published my book last month. This was the result of many years of hard work, tons of encouragement, some great advice, an equally large share of criticism and disappointment, and yes, perseverance.

In many ways, writing a book is a lot like pregnancy. Other writers love to tell you how hard it is to accomplish this, and they also really enjoy telling you the myriad ways you will experience pain. Despite this, they also say that they would do it all over again. You hear them but you never really believe them until you’ve gone through it yourself.

Having said that, the part I am still figuring out is how to get people interested in my book and how to market it. Yes, I’m a writer and I know my way around an advertisement. But…that doesn’t mean I’m a marketer. Learning how to promote my book is a work in progress, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be an adventure too.

So, to begin the process, I’ve decided to make this post a Q&A forum. I’m going to answer some of the questions that my very loyal readers have asked me about the book, and hopefully, you will all be interested enough to check it out for yourselves.

Just for laughs, imagine that my interviewer is Oprah Winfrey, and Tales From a Hungry Life: A Memoir with Recipes is her next book club pick.

How long before I'm on the cover with you?

How long before I’m on the cover with you?

Oprah: What inspired you to write this book?

Maria: For years, I have used stories about my family to break the ice at social functions like cocktail parties, weddings, Sweet Sixteen’s, or work events where I have to talk to people I barely know. Usually, by the time I get to the fourth or fifth story, people may laugh and/or choke on their bacon-wrapped scallops. Afterwards, they thank me and say helpful things like: “You are so funny! You should write a book.” So I listened.

Oprah: Seriously now. I thought it had something to do with your mother?

Maria: You are right, Oprah! Of course you’re always right. That’s why I’m so glad you’ve chosen to market my book through your wonderful magazine and book club (do you still have a book club?) and to the millions of people who adore you.

Oprah: Stop sucking up and just answer the question.

Maria: Okay. Well, without giving too much away, my mother battled Alzheimer’s disease. When I realized that our memories were disappearing with her, I decided to bring together the best stories of our lives together, and include some family recipes.

Oprah: Are the recipes in this book her recipes?

So pretty

My Mom was so pretty

Maria: Yes and no. I always thought I’d have more time to get recipes from my mother and grandmothers, but I was wrong. So, I took what I already had (like recipes for spaghetti sauce, arroz con pollo, sausage bread) and added some other recipes from family members (torrone, manicotti, linguine and eggplant). My relatives were excited about the book and were always happy to tell me stories.

Oprah: How would things have been different without the focus on food?

Maria: Well, for one thing, I probably would’ve been writing about a different family. When it came to us, if there was food, there was a party.

Oprah: Why did you choose these particular stories?

Maria: Some of the stories in the book still make me laugh just thinking about them, so they had to be included. Some of the other stories clearly illustrate the amazing characters that populated my little world—yes, I have six brothers, but they are all very different people. So the stories that I chose about each of them should give readers an idea about each very special person.

The opening story, about the fire, actually happened two years after I started writing this book. Of course, at the time I didn’t think there was anything funny about it. But in retrospect, it seemed like the perfect way to talk about my family: our past, present and hopes for the future.

Oprah: What was the most painful story that you chose not to include in this memoir of joyful tales?

Maria: Are you trying to make me cry? I’m not going to start weeping or jumping up and down on your couch like Tom Cruise.

Oprah: Answer the question, please.

Maria: Probably the story about how my mother looked at me one day while we were watching your show and said, “Look! There you are.” I looked at the screen and all I saw was you, Oprah.

Oprah: She thought you were me?

Maria: Yes. For some reason, she thought I was Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah: And how did that make you feel?

Maria: Obviously, I was kind of upset that my mother, the woman who gave birth to me, couldn’t tell us apart. But I got over it when a movie came on later that day and she said: “Look! I star in this picture.” She thought she was Olivia De Havilland. That’s when I learned not to take her Alzheimer’s personally. But that’s a whole other book.

There's my mom. NOT

There’s my mom. NOT

Oprah: Did anyone in your family get mad at you because of the stories you chose?

Maria: Not really. My father felt I failed to show how much fun he could be when we were growing up. He thinks I focused on him being the bad cop while my mother was always the good cop.

Oprah: Was he any fun?

Maria: No. (Just kidding!). Actually, my father came from a family of bonafide comedians, and he could hold his own with any one of them. Of course, he was the bad cop when it came to keeping us all in line. My mother never thought we did anything wrong. My father thought we were wrong before we even did anything.

Oprah: Can you give me an example?

Anything but mite boxes.

Anything but mite boxes.

Maria: If one of our Catholic school teachers called to tell my father that we’d been disrespectful,  failed a test, or didn’t get our mite boxes in on time, you would PRAY, PRAY, PRAY that my mother answered the phone. My mother might have asked for our side of the story. My father would have started screaming and then told us to stop having a story.

Oprah: So do you think that’s why you are all fine, upstanding citizens now?

Maria: As my father likes to say, we all survived and none of us ended up in jail. So, yes.

Oprah: Do you have a zany story about your father?

Maria: Sure, I have a million of them.

Oprah: Well? Spill it.

Maria: All right, here’s one. When I was dating my first boyfriend, my father and mother would go to bed and leave the two of us in the living room, on opposite ends of the couch, watching TV. One night, while we watched Johnny Carson, my father came running out from the back bedroom. He was wearing nothing but his sleeveless undershirt and boxers, with his comb-over to the side of his bald head. He proceeded to wing a golf ball at lightning speed at my very skinny boyfriend’s stomach, which resulted in that young man being doubled over in pain. Then Dad said, “Goodnight!” and went to bed.

Oprah: Was your boyfriend mad?

Maria: I don’t know. I never saw him again.

Oprah: Seriously?

Maria: No, not seriously. He just got the message that he had better be a perfect gentleman or my father could come running out of the darkness at any time to hurt him some more.

Oprah: Is everything funny to you?

Maria: Yes and no. While some of the stories here are light and frothy, there are a few that are poignant and tinged with loss. I don’t think you can have a story that’s about life and love without a little pain, although I tried very hard to keep the tone upbeat. The day of the fire was pretty heartbreaking. But even then, I could recognize some of the funnier moments in the middle of the devastation. However, I am not always laughing while sad things are happening to me. I need at least five minutes.

Oprah: Did writing this book bring you closer to your family?

Maria: In some ways it did. I got back in touch with lots of relatives I hadn’t seen in a while, and I’m glad because some of them have since passed on. I got to have a renewed relationship with my cousin Eleanor, who has been so good to me. She taught me how to make manicotti from scratch! I also heard from relatives and friends who were delighted to be “back in touch” with people like my Uncle Don, Uncle Sal, my parents, grandmother or brothers.

My brothers and father may not remember things exactly as I do, but they are happy for me and proud of me too. My husband, kids, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews have all been tremendously supportive and even made a toast to the book and me on Christmas Eve. I am very lucky.

Hooray

Hooray

Oprah: Will there be a sequel?

Maria: Yes, eventually. First I have to get the print version of this particular book out there. But there are still so many stories to tell. We are a big family filled with funny, good-hearted people who love to eat. The next book would include more stories about my husband, kids, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews.

Oprah: Tell me a little about your decision to self-publish. Why did you go this route?

Maria: After several years of trying to acquire an agent and/or interest a publishing house, one editor told me: “Look, you are not famous. You don’t have the selling power to attract a traditional publishing house. And the editors there won’t want to publish your book as is.” When I asked why, he said: “look at the books that sell: Glass Castle or Running with Scissors. They both have serious stories to tell. Your stories are too funny.”

Maybe the editor was right, but that made me pause. I didn’t want to write a memoir that focused on everything miserable and unhappy about family life. I also didn’t want my readers to feel like climbing into the bathtub and opening a vein when they felt prompted by the words THE END. The world had enough sad stories. I wanted my readers to laugh. I also wanted them to eat. It’s like a literary party: the book equivalent to Sunday dinner with my family.

It seemed to me that the only way for this book to come out the way I envisioned it was to self-publish, so that’s what I did.

Oprah: What was the best part about publishing your book?

Maria: I think, by far, the best part of this whole process has been hearing from the people who have read my book and enjoyed it. It’s been a tremendous thrill to go on amazon.com and see my book there, along with all those shiny 5-star reviews. You can find it here:

http://www.amazon.com/Tales-Hungry-Life-Memoir-Recipes-ebook/dp/B00H94R7II/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1387977324&sr=1-1&keywords=tales+from+a+hungry+life

You can even download sample pages and read a little bit of it. Go to the page on amazon.com and you’ll find that feature.

You can also like my Facebook page for Coqui Press (the name of my imprint) here:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Coqui-Press/1422534527980163

Oprah: Do you have any regrets?

Maria: Sure. I wish my mother could read my book. Of course she’d have to buy her own copy. (Again, kidding).

Oprah: What do you think your mother would say?

Maria: She’d probably say, “I forgot you were a writer!” No, seriously…she would probably say: “Remember that time I glued your father’s toupee to his sunburned scalp?” or “How come you didn’t tell the story about the time I used all of your father’s coins from his coin collection to do our laundry at the Laundromat?”

Maybe she’d even say, “I laughed and laughed. I love your book! Now let’s go get some White Castle.”

Worth the trip.

Worth the trip.

At least, I hope that’s what she’d say.

Recipe:

Quiche Lorraine

One of the questions that several of my readers asked me repeatedly was: what is your favorite recipe from the book? There are many contenders, but I guess my favorite is Quiche Lorraine. Just smelling it reminds me of our New Year celebrations from long ago, when my mother would get up early to start preparing it for the family and friends who would celebrate with us.

quiche-lorraine

Recipe: Quiche Lorraine

9-inch single crust pie

10 slices bacon

1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

1/3 cup diced onion

4 eggs, beaten

1-½ cups light cream

1-teaspoon salt

1/4-teaspoon sugar

1/8-teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8-teaspoon nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Place bacon in a large skillet, and cook until crisp. Drain on paper towels, and then chop coarsely. Sprinkle bacon, cheese and onion into pastry shell.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, salt, sugar, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Pour mixture into pastry shell.

3. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F, and bake an additional 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted 1 inch from edge comes out clean.

4. Allow quiche to sit 10 minutes before cutting into wedges.

Serves 6-8.

Here’s another recipe from Simply Recipes that features Gruyere cheese and chives:

http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/quiche_lorraine/

So, Hungry Lifers…if you could ask me a question, what would it be? What do you think the sequel should be about? Have you read my book yet? Please leave a comment below and let us all know. Thanks!

Thanks to Dad, Chris, Christine, Paula, Joanie, Jane, Lisa, Lisa (not the singer in Prince’s band, although she’s welcome to ask me questions too), Joe T, Kathie and Kathie for those great questions–and for reading my book! Any questions that didn’t get used this time will be used in the future.

July 10, 2013

11 Cool Summer Movies

By Maria Schulz

Air. Blessed Air.

Air. Blessed Air.

It’s been so hot in my small corner of the world for the last couple of weeks that many of us around here have been spending a lot of time indoors. It’s the kind of weather that makes you want to run from your car to your house, or into the department stores, or to my favorite place to of all cool off: the movies.

Growing up, there was no central air conditioning of any kind in the main part of our house. I was by far the luckiest inhabitant, because the family that lived there before us left the window unit behind in my room, and it only fit in that window.

My brothers spent many nights draped across the floor of my bedroom, trying to get in on the cold air and comfort. Otherwise, they had to sleep upstairs in the attic, where you were as likely to get a good night’s sleep as you were if you decided to go sleep in the oven.

Unfortunately, my father had adopted a strict “No Air Conditioner” policy during the day, and at night, the temperature could not fall below 80 degrees. I can remember sitting with my brothers at 9 pm, thermometer in hand, praying it would not fall below 81 (80 left too much room for error, ie: “that says 79! No A/C!”).

Hot, hot, hot

Hot, hot, hot

Humidity was never factored in, so even if it was 78 degrees and 80% humidity, you were assured a long night of tossing, turning, and having heat-induced daydreams about snowball fights in July.

My desire to avoid the heat and go somewhere as cold as Antarctica led me to the local movie houses. Yes, it sometimes took 2 connecting bus rides squished against other sweaty, smelly Queens natives, but by the time I arrived, it was all worth it.

Good, bad, or indifferent, the movies were a fun, two or more hour diversion (sometimes we’d see the double or triple feature) in a blissfully cold theater. I really had to restrain myself if I overheard an old lady saying something heretical to the manager like: “Can you turn down the Air Conditioning?”

NOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Some of my favorite movies from way back long ago are still good to rent now, especially when it feels like you could fry an egg on your forehead. Watch them with a cold drink in your hand and the A/C vents blowing in your direction.

I know no one asked, but I thought I’d give you a list of some classics and some off-beat movies that I really enjoyed. Here are some that always give me a thrill, a rush, some romance, or just some laughs.

The. Best. Summer. Movie. Ever.

The. Best. Summer. Movie. Ever.

JAWS

I wrote about this in my blog post, Summer Movies, a couple of years ago. The theme music still gets my heart pounding 35 years later, and I am not above singing DA DUM DA DUM DA DUM dum dum dum dum dum as I approach my husband while he lounges on the raft in our pool. He instantly knows that I intend to topple the raft, just like that poor kid Alex…oh never mind. Just watch this one. It’s the perfect movie to watch with your kids on a hot summer day, especially if you need to give them a reason to avoid the beach.

the muppet movie

THE MUPPET MOVIE (the original…from 1979)

Oh Kermie! Why ARE there so many songs about rainbows? And what’s on the other side? Corny jokes that still make me laugh, star cameos, rousing songs and the Muppets (including Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and Animal) make this one a fun time, even if you’re not 12 anymore.

STAR WARS, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK & THE RETURN OF THE JEDI

Well, as long as you’re stuck inside, you might as well rent all three. Yes, I know they are now labeled something else entirely (Episodes IV, V, & VI) because they’ve released some movies since, but these are the three that bring me right back to those days hanging out at the movies.

I can remember sitting in a packed theater all three times, with the A/C blasting and the music blaring. I saw Star Wars in the Fresh Meadows Theater (before it was a twin theater), The Empire Strikes Back at the RKO Keiths and The Return of the Jedi at the Bayside Twin.

Still great.

Still great.

To this day, I wrap a kerchief around my head and say things like “Help me Obi Wan. You’re my only hope!” And “Luke! Luke!” My children had no idea what I was doing until I watched these movies with them, and then they said, “these special effects are boring.” Which I guess they are, compared to what my kids see in movies today. But back then…WOW!

Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, C3P0, R2D2, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jabba The Hut, Ewoks, Lando Calrissian and more Intergalactic weirdos came together to make this trilogy a winner. I even remember doing the Ewok dance whenever the hit theme song came on back in 1983. Sad, but true.

MY BODYGUARD

Chris Makepeace, Adam Baldwin, Matt Dillon, Joan Cusack, Ruth Gordon and Martin Mull star in this movie that still appeals to the little kid in me.

Bully, meet my enormous bodyguard

Bully, meet my enormous bodyguard

It came out the Summer before I started High School and had a storyline I could really identify with: Clifford Peache is about to start a new school; there’s a bully who is making everyone’s life miserable and is only too happy to make Clifford’s life miserable too; and there’s a big, strange kid in Clifford’s class who terrifies everyone.

Of course, along the way, Clifford learns a thing or two about the kid who everyone thinks is a ruthless killer, after he hires him to be his bodyguard.

It’s kind of funny to see a very young Matt Dillon and Joan Cusack in this movie. Of course, Ruth Gordon was wonderful as Clifford’s grandmother.

Rent it and watch it with your kids so they can see how bullies acted… and how the bullied coped with it.

A LITTLE ROMANCE

Everyone needs a little romance

Everyone needs a little romance

A young French boy (Thelonius Bernard) meets a young American girl (Diane Lane) living in Paris for the Summer. They meet, fall in love, and befriend a retired pickpocket who can really tell a story (Sir Lawrence Olivier). The elderly man encourages their romance and never belittles the intensity of their feelings, even though they are just teenagers.

This was a sweet, charming movie that featured two very smart kids who were bright but never annoying or precocious. Their “little romance” was filled with adventure and gave hope to little old me that yes, even geeks could meet and fall in love.

Charming & Sweet. Academy-Award Winning Musical Score

Charming & Sweet. Academy-Award Winning Musical Score

Diane Lane made her screen debut in this film. She so impressed Olivier that he told a journalist that one day, Lane would be “the next Grace Kelly.”

Watch this one for beautiful acting, gorgeous settings, and a story of hope and love that will leave you smiling.

FUNNY FARM

Chevy Chase stars in this last film directed by George Roy Hill (who also directed The Sting, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and yes, A Little Romance). It’s not one of the best movies you will ever see, but it did make me laugh and is one of my favorite comedies.

So funny

So funny

When Andy Farmer and his wife, Elizabeth, leave the hustle and bustle of the city for the peace and tranquility of the country, they get a lot more than just a beautiful home in a pastoral setting. In fact, they soon discover that:

  • Their neighbors are as congenial as they are congenitally insane.
  • Their mailman drives 100+ miles an hour every single day, and throws their mail out his car window.
  • The Chief of Police doesn’t know how to drive at all, and although he keeps trying, he always crashes the car he’s driving or almost runs people over. He is no help whatsoever, and whenever Andy and Elizabeth have a problem and give him a call, he just laughs at them…and resolves nothing.

Andy left behind a great job as a sportswriter to work on his novel, and his writing habits are particularly amusing to me. Instead of being more productive in his quiet new home, he finds himself constantly distracted by the crazy locals, the wildlife, his wife, his dog, and his hilarious attempts to fit in.

This is a good movie to curl up on the couch and watch when you just need a laugh.

THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY

My husband and I saw this one summer night when we actually had a babysitter. It was fun to be out amongst the living again. But the best part of all was that this movie was absolutely hysterical. We laughed so hard with the rest of the audience and had the happiest of date nights.

Great for date night

Great for date night

From the flashback to Prom Night to the wacky, orange neighbor named Magda, to Matt Dillon’s extremely un-PC take on Mary’s role in her disabled brother’s life, this movie from the Farrelly brothers still manages to crack me up.

BRAVEHEART

MEL!!!

MEL!!!

Remember when Mel Gibson was popular? This is one of those very long action movies that didn’t sag in the middle for me. Yes, of course it’s historically inaccurate. So what? Look at Mel Gibson!!! There’s romance, heartbreak, outrage, rebellion, more romance, more heartbreak, more rebellion, tons of action scenes…what’s not to love?

Patrick McGoohan, the actor who plays King Edward I (Longshanks) is fantastic in this movie, and he pretty much steals every scene he’s in.

Now that's a King

Now that’s a King

There are enough surprises and action to keep an action movie lover happy, but not so much that a baby like me gets totally freaked out. That’s right: I hate blood and guts and have been known to pass out during movies that displayed broken bones (The Fly) or feet that have been shot (Dances With Wolves).

When I saw this movie in the theaters, I had to go to the lobby for about 20 minutes so I could miss some of the more graphic scenes. But I’ve since watched the entire movie, I think a really hot day would be the perfect time to watch it again.

I may fast forward through some parts though, if I’m feeling woozy.

THE GREAT ESCAPE

You didn’t really think I was going to get through this list without mentioning James Garner, now did you?

How can you not admire Hendley, The Scrounger? The prisoners planning a break out need a camera to make phony IDs…he gets them one. They need to see real documents so they can make fake ones and travel through Nazi Germany…and he gets his hands on them. The Forger (Donald Pleasance) is losing his sight and might not be allowed to break out…so Hendley promises to help him escape.

Great movie

Great movie

Sure, some people like The Cooler King (Steve McQueen), The Tunnel King (Charles Bronson) or Bartlett (Richard Attenborough), and I do too. But nobody puts The Scrounger in the corner! Oh wait, sorry….wrong movie. (Dirty Dancing is also a great one to rent, for very different reasons).

I used to watch this one on Channel 7’s 4:30 movie. You really had to be dedicated to this movie, since between all the commercials and the 1 ½ hour time slot, you had to watch it over the course of a couple of days.

Yes, I own it on Blu Ray and I’ve seen it at least a million times. I always hope that this time, things will be different.

Rent it, buy it, or search for it on American Movie Classics. You won’t be sorry!

Recipe:

Healthy & Delicious

Healthy & Delicious

Now that we’re watching movies, we’ll need popcorn. Here are 6 Creative Popcorn Recipes for you to choose from:

http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/recipe-collections-favorites/popular-ingredients/popcorn-recipes-00100000074061/index.html

So Hungry Lifers…what’s your favorite Summer movie? What movie would you recommend? Why? Leave a comment below and let us all know. Thanks!