Tales From A Hungry Life

November 24, 2016

10 Reasons to Be Grateful This Thanksgiving

by Maria Schulz

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

Did you know that being grateful is actually good for you? There’s scientific proof that being grateful can have a dramatic impact on your life—keeping blood pressure low, making your immune system work better, and helping you get more sleep.

That’s good news, because Thanksgiving Day can come with its own stresses. Maybe you’re having a big crowd over and you have a million things to do. Or, maybe you’ll be a guest and some of the folks you’ll be seeing annoy the living daylights out of you. Plus, with all of the food being served, this holiday can wreak havoc on your health.

Everybody loves roast turkey

Everybody loves roast turkey

So…instead of focusing on the things that will drive us crazy today or make us fat, how about finding things to be grateful for? Here are some suggestions.

Family can be fun

Family can be fun

  1. Family

Sure, not everyone is blessed with the perfect family. But come to think of it, is ANYONE? Find me the perfect family and I’ll show you a pack of Yetis with the same last name. Sorry, folks—this mythical family doesn’t exist. We humans are imperfect and tend to get on each other’s nerves. Still, there are ways around this. Is your wacky, forgetful mom bringing her world famous mashed potatoes to the table? Be grateful. Is your annoying, messy, but somehow-still-lovable son home from college? Be grateful. Is Uncle Harry smoking his disgusting cigar outside—and keeping his shoes on his smelly feet inside? Be grateful. You get the idea.

Get out there

Get out there

  1. Friends

Some of us rely on the kindness of friends to make our holidays special. Maybe your family is a pack of psychos or they just live too far away to spend the day together. If you want to spend it alone, that’s great. However, if you are miserable because you feel you’ve been rejected by humankind on this day of thanks, accept an invitation to dinner with your stand-in family—your friends—or go help others at church, a soup kitchen, a nursing home, etc. Don’t just sit there like a Debbie Downer crying over your sad, tiny bird. Get out there and mix with people. You’ll be glad you did, even if those people are watching an awful lot of football.

Don't be that friend

Don’t be that friend

3. You woke up today! Hey, if that’s not a reason to be grateful, I don’t know what is. Be grateful that you’re up and about. Go participate in a local Turkey Trot. Go to church. Smile. Today is a gift. Treat it that way.

Run, run, run

Run, run, run

4. You’ve got all of your marbles. Metaphorically speaking, that is. And if you literally can’t find your pack of marbles, I’ve got good news for you: you can go online and score a big Black Friday deal on some new ones.

I've got a lot to be thankful for

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for

5. Your kids gave you one of those “I’m Grateful For” Turkeys with wonderful things written on all of the feathers. Somehow, you managed to score ahead of the dog, the iguana, and a pack of Legos. Be grateful.

6. When all the cooking and eating is done, you can watch football. Or the dog show. Or you can watch the parade while you cook. The point is, you can do whatever you please. If you have to work today, make plans to celebrate tomorrow or Saturday or whenever you can be surrounded by those you love or at least like enough to challenge to a wishbone-breaking feat of strength.

Or you can make your own "I'm grateful for" list

Go ahead, make your own “I’m grateful for” list

  1. There’s pie! Apple, pumpkin, blueberry, lemon meringue. Why wouldn’t you be grateful?
Best Ever.

Best Ever.

  1. NETFLIX! If watching sentimental movies or football is not your thing, go for Breaking Bad or Orange is the New Black. Turkey-binging and Netflix-binging. Perfect together!
Red, white, and imperfect blue

Red, white, and imperfect blue

  1. We are Americans. We live in a country that is not perfect, but it’s our country. The Bill of Rights lets us practice our beliefs, pursue happiness, and complain thanks to Freedom of Speech. We aren’t perfect and we’re able to say so. That’s a pretty amazing unalienable right and I’m grateful for it.
Plus you can read whatever you want

Plus you can read whatever you want

  1. Laughter is free. Yes, your family and friends may do things that annoy the stuffing out of you. Grandma may eat food off your plate. Your best friend Gerry may bore you with endless football commentary. Your beloved dog may have just barfed blueberry pie all over your rug. So what? Chances are your Thanksgiving Day disasters will live on in infamy. Today won’t last forever, and those people and pets who are driving you crazy won’t be here forever either. Be glad you’re where you are right now and laugh as much as possible.
the muppet movie

They look happy

Here’s a bonus reason to be grateful today: even if you’re watching your weight, dessert on Thanksgiving is MANDATORY!

Where have all the cookies gone?

Where have all the cookies gone?

Recipe: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies


1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon clove

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup white sugar

1 egg, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup pure pumpkin

1 cup chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove together. Set aside.
  3. Use mixer (on medium) to beat butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until creamy. Add egg and vanilla.
  4. Turn mixer to low and add pumpkin. Slowly beat in flour mixture until dough forms. DO NOT OVERMIX!
  5. Fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Use a medium cookie scoop (or a teaspoon) and drop scoops onto baking sheet, two inches apart.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until edges start to brown.
  8. Remove from oven, let cool.


So many reasons to be grateful

So many reasons to be grateful

So, what makes you grateful? What’s your favorite Thanksgiving treat? What was your worst turkey day disaster? Please leave a comment. Happy Thanksgiving to all!


March 5, 2015

The Friends You Keep

by Maria Schulz

When you’re a child, you make friends easily. Friends are like a new sweater that you try on for size just to see how they fit. Some of them are too bulky—they make you hot and uncomfortable. Some of them are itchy—and you can’t wait to get rid of them. But sometimes, you find one that is warm, luxurious, and fits you so perfectly that you forget where they begin and you end. That friend is a keeper.

There’s something about this type of friend that makes you remember who you are, where you came from, and where you’re going. Life’s trajectory may separate you, but when you meet again, everything feels just right.

Reenie, Maria and Chris at St. Robert's Reunion

Reenie, Maria and Chris at St. Robert’s Reunion

I was reminded of this recently when I saw my childhood friend, Maureen. Reenie and I were completely inseparable until we graduated from St. Robert’s. She went off to Catholic high school and I went off to the big, scary, public high school (P.S. it wasn’t scary at all…I just didn’t know it then).

Reenie was tall and gorgeous, with blonde hair, blue eyes, an easy laugh, a great sense of humor, and a big heart. She knew how to dress (thanks to two older, beautiful sisters with great fashion sense), had hair that was always perfectly cut and feathered, and an easy confidence that I always admired.

I, on the other hand, was short and fat, with a Dorothy Hamill hairstyle that I could never completely get right. I could not put together an outfit to save my life, and was often teased for being dressed badly or for having the “wrong” hairstyle. Girls that age can be pretty cruel.

Two things saved me: I had a sense of humor, and I had a savior: Reenie. I wrote about this in my post, Enemies, Frenemies, and French Cruellers.

That time in your life when you’re too old for dolls and too young for grown up activities can be challenging. Some of your friends may be way ahead of you as far as boys and parties go. I wasn’t ready for any of it yet. My “favorite things to do list” looked something like this:

  1. Watch Dallas. I even wore an “I Shot JR” tee shirt

    Still fits

    Still fits

  2. Watch Guiding Light. Would Reva marry Josh…again? Would Nola convince Floyd to sleep with her so she could trap Kelly into marrying her and believing that Floyd’s baby was his? Would Roger Thorpe come back again? These were the burning questions from my youth

    The best bad guy ever.

    The best bad guy ever.

  3. Watch The Rockford Files. Every. Friday. Night. Plus weekdays, when it went into syndication

    Greatest. Show. Ever.

    Greatest. Show. Ever.

  4. Ride my bicycle all over town. I’m so glad I grew up at a time when you could go out to explore—either on your own or with a friend—and not have an adult safeguarding your every move and policing your every thought

    I like my bicycle

    I like my bicycle

  5. Bowling. Every Wednesday, and sometimes on the weekends



  6. Go to the movies. The Quartet in Flushing, The Bayside Theater on Bell Blvd., The Bay Terrace Twin, The Fresh Meadows Twin, The RKO Keiths, and The Prospect in Flushing were some of my regular stops. I saw everything from The China Syndrome and Being There to Jaws and The Muppet Movie.

    "We're going to need a bigger boat."

    “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”

  7. Baking. I could make a mean brownie, chocolate chip cookie, or crumb cake

    The crummier the better

    The crummier the better

  8. Talk on the phone, sometimes for hours. There was no call waiting and I was glad

    Go old school

    Go old school

  9. Play a mean game of Life, Battleship, Clue, and Monopoly. Was it Colonel Mustard in the Library with the Candlesticks? You decide.

    It's a hit!

    It’s a hit!

  10. Walk and play with our dogs, have sleepovers, and talk, talk, talk. It was a relief to have friends that I could talk to about everything from Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff (no disco was allowed in my house…my rock-n-roll loving brothers would have performed an exorcism on me) to our beloved pets, favorite books, best-loved movies and TV shows, and the always mystifying topic of boys.

    How about some Hot Stuff?

    How about some Hot Stuff?

I was lucky enough to have Reenie there by my side—at the movies, on the phone, riding bikes, walking the dogs, in front of the TV, and by the stove. We stayed friends even as new experiences took us away from each other.

When my mother died, I called Reenie because I wanted to talk to someone who knew my mother before the Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, her mother just passed away from Alzheimer’s too.

At her mother’s wake, I thought of all the times her mother drove us back and forth, took us to Church carnivals, or dropped us off at a movie theater. I remembered seeing Mrs. R. at school functions, waving and smiling at me. I smiled when I remembered Friday night Lenten meals at Mrs. R.’s house, including Spaghetti and eggs or Mac and Cheese. As I spoke to her beautiful daughters, I thought of her easy laugh and how beautiful she was too.

It made me think of all of the friends I have from that time, and how lucky I was to know each of their families. I hope my children’s friends will look back someday and remember me smiling, welcoming them, and cooking for them too.


Recipe: Mac and Cheese

My mom never made Macaroni and Cheese, but Mrs. R. made it one Friday night in Lent and I was hooked. Here’s a recipe from Alton Brown that looks easy and delicious.

So…do you have an old friend who just “fits?” What’s your favorite comfort food (if you’re not Catholic) or ’Friday night in Lent food’? (if you are)? Which friends have you “kept?” Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

October 9, 2013

The Hit or Miss Covered Dish

by Maria Schulz

When I was in college, I had to read “Friends, Good Friends—And Such Good Friends” by Judith Viorst. In that essay, Viorst talks about the different kinds of friends you can have, and the levels of intimacy that each different type of friend shares with you.

Of course, the best friends to have are the people who, after hearing you’re sick or hurt, will cook for your family, pick up your medicine, do your grocery shopping, drive your kids everywhere and anywhere, and know that you’d do the same for them in a heartbeat.


I saw this kind of friendship in action when I was about 6 years old. That’s when my mother had to go into the hospital because of a cancer scare. Our little world almost came apart at the seams without her to keep everything together.

I first knew something was wrong when I stumbled out of bed at about 2 am one morning, only to find my parents’ bed unmade and both of them gone. My big brother, Tony, was in the living room watching television.

“Where’s Mom? Where’s Dad?” I said.

Tony snapped awake. “Um, they went to the movies. Go back to bed.”

It didn’t really make a lot of sense to me that my parents went out to the movies at 2 am, but adults never made any sense to me. So, I turned around and went back to sleep.

The following morning, I got up about 5 am and couldn’t find my mother anywhere. My father was in the kitchen, having a cup of coffee.

amaretto coffee and biscotti

Yum, amaretto coffee and biscotti

“Did you enjoy the movie?” I said to him.

He looked up and stared at me. “What movie?”

“Tony said you went to the movies last night. Where’s Mom?”

My father laughed. “We didn’t go to the movies. Your mom is in the hospital.”

“WHAT?” I said, and started to cry.

My father wrapped his arms around me and gave me a hug. “It’s okay,” my father said. “The doctors just want to look at mom for a little bit. I’m sure she’ll be home soon. In the meantime, we’re going to play a fun game!”

“Really?” I said. I was kind of hoping I could just go back to bed, but this could be fun.

“Yes!” Dad said. “I’m going to wake up all of your brothers, and we’re going to clean the house from top to bottom!”

Of course, this didn’t sound like fun at all, but it did keep our minds off the fact that mom was in the hospital and no one could say when she would be coming back.

I looked as sad as Charlie Brown did in "Snoopy, Come Home"

I looked as sad as Charlie Brown did in “Snoopy, Come Home”

But even more disturbing than the fact that my mother was sick was this: what were we going to do for dinner?

This is where our family and friends stepped in.

My grandmother was immediately pressed into service, since my father had to work all day and someone had to be around for the seven of us.

My father was the equivalent of a drill sergeant, waking us up at the crack of dawn so we could spend a couple of hours cleaning the house every morning before trudging off to a full day of school.

But my father’s ability to crack the whip paled in comparison to his own mother’s ability to keep us all in line.

Somehow, my grandmother managed to get us all to pitch in, clean up, and help. The dog was kept out of the living room, our books were cleaned off the dining room table after our homework was done, and she managed to cook us dinner for the first few nights without any drama or tears (from us or her).

fresh pasta

Spaghetti and meatballs, roasted chicken, and burgers—lots and lots of burgers—were on the menu for the first few days that my grandmother had to feed the nine of us, plus my Uncle Don, who came over to help out. Mostly, I think he came over to eat.

By about Friday, my grandmother was on the verge of a total nervous breakdown, and this is where our family and friends came to the rescue. They were good enough to bring trays and trays of food, and for that we were very grateful. I think my grandmother was the most grateful person of all.

Of course, since we were children, we weren’t very diplomatic about our likes and dislikes. There were a few dishes that we absolutely hated. In fact, after eating some of them, we mostly resembled Tom Hanks in Big right after he tries caviar for the first time.

I know how he feels

I know how he feels

Here are some of the dishes that got a BIG THUMBS DOWN from us:

1. Meatloaf: since this was the 1970s, we got a few of these. There seemed to be no end to the nasty variations on this theme. One came stuffed with a horrible smelling cheese (blech); another one came covered with roasted onions (gag), and a third arrived slathered in a honey/ketchup concoction that was so sweet it made my teeth ache. This, from the same person who thought a Charleston Chew with a Chocolate Milk chaser was the perfect snack. No, this was definitely not like Mama’s cooking at all!

I like candy. Meatloaf, not so much

I like candy. Meatloaf, not so much

2. Egg noodles with ground beef and mixed vegetables: I am gagging just remembering this dish, which had some kind of weird cream sauce. If I had gone to this person’s house for dinner, I would have thanked them profusely for it, and then put my dish under the table for the dog to lick it clean, if please Lord almighty there was a dog in the house.

3. Eggplant Parmesan: I love eggplant parm now, but then? YUCK! My brothers and I even hated our mother’s eggplant, so you can imagine how popular this dish was. However, our father—depression era baby that he was—never saw a dish of food that he found worthy of the garbage can. No food would land there, which meant we would have to eat it—even if the dogs wouldn’t.

No eggplant for me, thanks

No eggplant for me, thanks

4. Spaghetti and Meatballs


5. Lasagna, stuffed shells, or chicken parmesan were all problematic coming from anyone outside our family. Why is that, you ask? That’s because no one in our family ever used jarred sauce. EVER! And although we were small children, we could smell the difference from a mile away.

Of course, it’s a miracle that anyone, let alone 10 other families, agreed to make food for our motley crew. I want to thank them now, because I certainly wasn’t thanking them then. It wasn’t that they couldn’t cook. I think it was that my mother’s version of anything was usually so much better.

I guess the real problem was this: I just wanted my mom to get better and come home. That, and the dishes they sent were kind of terrible.

Recently, a friend of mine has been laid up. So, a bunch of moms decided to band together and cook some food for her family while she’s on the mend.

This immediately sent me into a panic. It’s not that I can’t cook. I can! Really. The problem is, some nights are more successful than others. For instance, there are nights when I put something down in front of my family and they practically put me in a chair, lift me up on their shoulders, and parade me through the streets, serenading me with unbridled joy.

“They like me, They really like me!” It’s enough to turn me into Sally Field.

Check out this recipe!

Check out this recipe!

And then, there are other nights…like tonight, for example. Tonight, I made a dish that I’ve made a million times before. It’s a chicken and stuffing casserole that my husband and kids usually enjoy.

But…not this time. Although I put it in the oven for the right amount of time, the dish was a total failure. The stuffing was soggy, the chicken was rubbery, and everyone hated it. Two bites, and then the whole thing got tossed right into the trash.

It’s one thing to torture your own family with a terrible meal. But should I really inflict my hit or miss cooking on another family? Does that sound fair? Haven’t they suffered enough?

My husband tried to make me feel better. “Do something with your sauce,” he said. “That’s always good.”

“Yeah,” my girls chimed in. “Make some kind of pasta.”

While I considered my options, I heard them talk about what a bad dish I made that night and how sometimes I am, surprisingly, a really good cook. After a few minutes worth of discussion, we narrowed the choices down to: spaghetti and meatballs, baked ziti, or lasagna.

In the end, I decided to make Baked Ziti for my friend and her family. I’m doing it because that’s what friends do for one another. And, since it’s a meal I’m cooking for a different family, I’ll follow the recipe and make sure it’s a success.

“They’ll love it,” Gary said. “Just be sure to make an extra batch for us.”

The fact that my husband still wants to eat anything I cook is a good sign. I’m hoping that he and my kids are so excited by it that they get ready to carry me through the streets and sing for joy.

Yay! Dinner was great!

Yay! Dinner was great!

I just hope my friend’s kids don’t start their own blog some day and talk about their traumatic experiences with the baked ziti a “friend” made them when their mom was sick.


baked ziti

Baked Ziti


I saw a Baked Ziti recipe that included sour cream and provolone cheese. Sour cream does not make an authentic Italian dish. Use ricotta cheese instead of sour cream (always) and lose the provolone cheese (mozzarella is enough). Also, this recipe calls for sausage or ground beef. I use ground beef, but in lasagna I will sometimes use sausage as well. It’s your call.

So, Hungry Lifers: what’s the worst thing you ever cooked for your family? What’s the best thing? Do you like Baked Ziti? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

December 21, 2012

Season’s Greetings

By Maria Schulz

Well folks, it’s that time of year again. Suddenly, you’re hearing from all those family members, best buddies and once-a-year friends thanks to the one piece of snail mail that refuses to die: the holiday card.


I get a lot of cards with “Happy Holidays” scribbled across the bottom. I really look forward to the cards that come with a handwritten note from old teachers, high school pals, grade school friends, and other people that I really love but don’t always get to talk to during the year. Then again, I also get those cards with all the photos that show how grown up all the kids have gotten. One of the best ones I got included “then” and “now” photos of the kids, which made me tear up a little. It also reminded me that I am on my way to being decrepit.

The one card that I kind of dread is the Holiday Newsletter. Relentlessly self-congratulatory, unflinchingly pretentious, and blindingly self-absorbed, the Holiday newsletter is to Christmas cards what Macbeth is to Cats. Luckily, I have fallen off the newsletter list of several people who used to send them to me. I wonder why?

This is the type of newsletter I dislike:

Christmas icons

Dear Fam & Friendz !!! J

Another year has passed in the Howell family’s little saga, and we just couldn’t wait to share our good fortune with all of you.

For those of you who don’t already know, Thurston just got promoted to Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler of his local Raccoon Lodge. He is now the top ranking Mystic Ruler in the Southwest! He begged me not to mention it since he doesn’t like to brag, but he forgot that I do! Besides, why start listening to him now? LOL LOL LOL

Of course, he also just cashed in those stocks his great granddaddy left him. You know, the ones Dudley Howell bought for Coca Cola back when it was being sold in Atlanta drugstores for a nickel? The fact is, we will never be able to use all that money in one lifetime, let alone pay all the taxes!

Coke adds life!

Coke adds life!

Our son, little Thurston, may be only 6, but he already speaks 4 languages including Swahili. Our Nanny, who is from that region, has been teaching him her special dialect. I think it’s charming, and the first grade teachers in our neighborhood can’t get enough of him! Do you know how to say, “I am a god?” in Swahili? Little Thurston says it’s “Mimi ni mungu.” He says it constantly while telling us what to do. It’s an absolute laugh riot!

Our daughter, Adele (formally Lois, for those of you who got past newsletters) has created a sensation on the local beauty pageant circuit. People from all walks of life feel compelled to stop me on the streets and marvel at her ability to sing “Rumor Has It” with such passion and feeling. It’s almost like she knows betrayal, heartbreak and Jazz better than any other 9 year old I’ve ever encountered!

I can't see.

I can’t see.

Our dog, King Ernesto of Poseidon III, is such a handsome specimen that we were certain he would one day go on to take the coveted “Best In Show” title in every dog show. Unfortunately, one of the snobs from the governing body said Ernesto couldn’t compete just because he is blind and quite possibly mentally deficient. I considered suing, but Ernesto seems to be enjoying his early retirement, lounging in the yard, chasing the occasional varmint and even bumping into trees at times. Maybe I will just get him a job as a doggie model. He is really that handsome!

As for me, I’m on my 4th (but don’t worry, it’s definitely not my last) stint of redecorating the house. Each day, I contemplate whether to go with marble or granite, ceiling fans or chandeliers, burnt ochre or smoked sienna. Just last week, I completed my purchase of 900 yards of damask fabric with which I will cover all of my furniture in just a matter of hours. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I’m destined to be your Home Designer of choice in the future! If I could get out my Magic 8 Ball, I’d say it’s safe to say that you’ll be getting “Frederika’s Fabulous” business cards in your mailboxes soon. Coupons to follow!

Call me maybe?

Call me maybe?

For those of you who don’t remember (ha, ha), we moved to Arizona about 5 years ago. Did you realize that Arizona is really hot pretty much all year round? But what they say is true: it is a dry heat, so it is very tolerable. Not like that humidity my dear friends and family up in the Northeast face all summer long! Oh, remember what my hair used to look like in July?

So sorry to cut this short, but I’m going to join my family now for a swim. That’s right, a swim—in December! Happy Holidays to all of you snow-bound fools!

XXOO, The Howells

P.S. We went swimming with the dolphins this year off the coast of Bimini! Adele sang with them and Little Thurston rode on one particularly friendly dolphin’s back. I think he is the next Jacques Cousteau!!!!

Peace, love & joy.

Frederika Howell


This is the newsletter I’m pretty sure the Frederika Howell’s of the world would rather send:

Dear Whoever,

What can I say about the last year? It totally stunk. Thurston got kicked out of his Raccoon Lodge for cooking the books. It was in all the local papers. He asked me not to mention it, but I’ve been drinking eggnog since Halloween and so my inhibitions are pretty low right now.

Those stocks I’ve been talking about for the last dozen or so years weren’t actually for Coca Cola, they were for the once rival brand of Kona Cola. Apparently, it was a special Hawaiian blend that promised a splash of pineapple and a taste of the tropics in every drop.

Kona cola is NOT Coca Cola

Kona cola is NOT Coca Cola

Never heard of it? Neither did our broker. Those stocks weren’t worth the paper they were printed on. I was going to use the money they were supposed to generate for Thurston’s bail, but oh well. Fortunately, he only got 10 years for embezzling and he is serving his time in a very lovely low security, white-collar prison. The months he’s had to spend there already will count towards his time served. So there is a silver lining!

Now that I’ve got three minutes to think about something other than Thurston’s impending jail sentence, I’ve come to the conclusion that Little Thurston is trying to drive me insane. He constantly runs around the house, speaking in imaginary languages and dressed in a toga. His first grade teachers call endlessly to complain that he thinks he is a god and refuses to follow directions. Our Nanny, who is Swahili, says he is definitely possessed. I think she may be on to something.

Our daughter, Adele, changed her name from Lois earlier this year. I can’t get her to stop singing songs from that stupid album. It isn’t bad enough that it plays all XXX!@ day on the radio, now I have to hear it at every Beauty Contest she drags me to. I wish she would realize that Rumour Has It—she doesn’t even have the looks or talent of Honey Boo-Boo, let alone Miss America.

This is the real Adele.

This is the real Adele.

Remember in last year’s newsletter how I told you about the dog we adopted? His official name is Champion Ernest Borgnine of Poseidon Adventure III, but we like to refer to him as Ernie. Ernie is just drop dead gorgeous, and Thurston got it into his head that he was going to be eligible for the Westminster Dog Show. I think he watched “Best in Show” one too many times.


No, really, I'm blind.

No, really, I’m blind.


Anyways, Ernie was disqualified because the judges say he’s blind. I beg to differ; my dog is not blind, he’s stupid. He walks into walls and pees in inappropriate places.  There was a time that I thought Thurston was deaf, but it was just that he was ignoring me. I think that Ernie learned that trick from Thurston and just got it wrong. So now he walks into trees and chases imaginary squirrels. Maybe Little Thurston can use his god-like powers to cure him and make the blind dog see. LOL

As for me, I see no gainful employment in my immediate future. I have decided to redecorate the house in a style I like to call “Retro 70s,” which basically means I’ve arranged five beanbag chairs around an ancient black and white TV, where my Nanny and children sit around and play PONG all day long. We are keeping one of those beanbag chairs ready and waiting for Thurston just in case he gets out on good behavior!


Want to play Pong?

Want to play Pong?

Has anyone ever told you that Arizona is tolerable because the heat here is “dry?” What the XXOO!@!* does that mean? Would you crawl inside an oven, jack it up to 110 degrees, and consider yourself lucky while your skin sizzled and burned because it was a dry heat? If the answer is yes, then you should definitely move to my neighborhood.

I would go swimming but my pool is hotter than hell. I’m going to go sit in my beanbag chair and play PONG now, if I can get my Nanny and kids to give me a turn.

Nuts to you,

The Howells

Not a fan

Not a fan

P.S. We went swimming with the dolphins this year. Did you know that they become vicious when subjected to my daughter’s endless renditions of “Rolling in the Deep” and a young delusional boy tries to ride them? I jumped in to save Little Thurston and one of those XXOO@* fishes bit me. Tore my pinky finger right off! One of my old Brooklyn friends now calls me “Four Fingers Freddie.”

Peace out yo.


[Now that’s the kind of Holiday newsletter I would really enjoy!]

Here’s one of my favorite Christmas cards:


The coolest Santa around!©AGC, LLC

The coolest Santa around!


Spiked Eggnog

So good!

So good!


Let your inhibitions disappear just like Four Fingers Freddie! These Eggnog recipes look delicious and may make the holidays even more merry and bright. The first one is even from Rachel Ray!




So, Hungry Lifers…what do you like best about holiday newsletters? What do you like least? Please leave a comment here and let us all know. Happy Holidays!

May 24, 2012

Enemies, Frenemies and French Crullers

by Maria Schulz

I was talking to my girls the other day when my younger daughter asked me, “Who were your enemies in middle school?”

Honestly, I didn’t remember having any enemies. It’s not that I was the most popular kid at school, and I wasn’t the least popular, but I kind of blended into the woodwork. I had a few friends and the rest were people I considered friendly. No enemies in sight.

At first I replied, “I didn’t have any,” but that was before I remembered my tortured childhood and CYO bowling.

A fashion staple! NOT

Let me preface this by saying that I have never had any fashion sense whatsoever. My parents embraced the doctrine of benign neglect and there were many times that I believed I was being raised by wolves. Also, I relied on Catholic school uniforms as my major wardrobe staple, which is never something you see on the catwalk in Paris.

The fact that my brothers scoffed at anything too “girly” made me a prime target for girls who were blessed with a keen eye for beautiful clothes, accessories, and all things fashion related.

I never wanted to be a fashion designer, supermodel or glamorous actress. When I would play house, my future careers had me traveling all over the world, saving children who needed me. I usually wore my Ladybug  or Raggedy Anne & Andy tee shirts and no-name jeans. If it was summer, I wore shorts and walked around barefoot. Nothing stopped me from adopting doll “children” from many different continents.

My “adopted” kids included the African beauty my father got me from the United Nations. Her name was Malachi and she was decked out in traditional orange and yellow peasant garb with a jaunty matching hat. I learned a lot about her country because I wanted to understand her. She struggled to fit in but all of my other dolls embraced her and helped out.

Rosa, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl, came from Spain, was dressed in a sleeveless pink lace dress and could sing songs thanks to the mini record in her back. When I asked my mother to translate the songs, she said they were nonsense songs. One of the lines was “the cat runs over the horse shed and the cow eats grass with the moon.” I never held it against her that she made no sense. She sometimes struggled to speak English, but I always understood her.

Then there was Susie, a life-sized, second-hand, All-American who came to me with her black hair cut down to a nub, wearing a yarmulke, a red-and white-striped dress and black shoes. During Passover, I let Susie say the lines “what makes this night different from all other nights?” Sometimes, to make Susie feel better about herself, I would put a blonde wig on her and dress her in one of my old party dresses. She was always very grateful.

I was perfectly happy staying in my bedroom and playing with my dolls, but my parents were alarmed by my lack of desire for outside stimulation. I think they feared that I was going to be one of those reclusive hoarders who never move out or marry, live in a house so full of junk that they are in constant peril of dying in an avalanche, and gives out pennies on Halloween.

Hungry like the wolf

To save me from a life where the authorities would one day find my half-eaten corpse along with all 189 feral cats and dogs that I had “rescued,” my parents signed me up for CYO Bowling.

I wanted to try gymnastics but my Dad wanted me to bowl. “This way, I can help you,” he said. “This is something we can enjoy together.” So, since money was tight and I was amazed that my parents were signing me up for anything, I went along.

At 9 years old, I could barely lift the lightest ball, which infuriated my father. Normally, his avalanche of rage syndrome amused me since it was directed at my brothers. But now, I had him all to myself and there was no one to deflect the yelling.

“You’re not tiny! There’s no reason you can’t throw a 10-pound ball!” Dad said.

Well, of course there were lots of reasons I couldn’t. I was cursed with absolutely no upper body strength and even less hand-eye coordination. It was the perfect storm for a weekly lesson that included shouting, recriminations, and lots of tears—for both of us.

Of course, my father was NOT my enemy, which gives you an idea of how supportive my CYO team was going to be.

My team captain, Linda, was the big sister of one of my classmates. She was a pretty, tall 8th-grader with short brown hair, a perfect face, and great clothes. I was sure we would get along because she was my older brother’s girlfriend. I was wrong.

From Day 1, whenever Linda saw me, her smile vanished. When I went up to bowl, she would cross her arms and scowl. “Throw the ball straight!” she would yell, just as I released it.

Miracle of miracles, it went straight—to the gutter. This would happen frame after frame, until I wished I could just disappear and she looked like she wanted to beat me to death with my 8-lb. ball.

My other teammates, Nadine and Maura, didn’t really care, but Linda was so into it that she would call me names, yell at me, and threaten me. It started as insults about my bowling and eventually devolved into comments about my hair, my clothes, and my weight. This resulted in scores of 19, 23, and my high game of 44.

I didn’t know what to do to make Linda stop hating me, short of raising my average to 300. Since that was as likely to happen as me twitching my nose and making all the pins fall (a la Bewitched), I had no choice but to sit there and suck it up.

Pins: FALL!

During my first stellar season, my bowling average hovered somewhere around a 19. Nadine had an average of about 75 so she was a star by my standards, and Maura, with her 110 average, found me mildly amusing. But Linda, who had a 130 average, was furious.

“We’re gonna end up in last place thanks to you,” she liked to say.

I asked my brother to intervene and he tried. Unfortunately, this put him in the situation of having to listen to her litany of my crimes against CYO bowling in general and her in particular.

“She says you’re not trying,” Louie remarked.

“I am trying,” I replied. “I’m just not succeeding.”

Luckily, my brother broke up with Linda and I didn’t have to be nice to her anymore. It was just as well, because I’m sure she never forgave me for the team landing in last place. We were the ones who got a trophy of a girl throwing a ball through her legs.

The next year was uneventful and even fun. I started to get really good at bowling and my teammates didn’t hate me as a result. Everything was great…until the sixth grade.  That’s when I discovered that Linda was Miss Congeniality compared with the newest mean girl in my life.

Lee Anne was a 7th grader with beautiful long brown hair, big brown eyes and very cool clothes. She was sporting bell-bottoms and velour when I was rocking my 3rd cousin’s too-small, hand-me-down overalls.

This of course was reason enough to make Lee Anne despise me.

As I’ve mentioned in blogs past, I also had a Jimmy “J.J.” Walker tee-shirt with his smiling face and the words DY-NO-MITE emblazoned across it. This was perhaps the most unfortunate Christmas gift I ever got from my Aunt Nellie.

100% Guaranteed Bully Magnet

But since it was new and clean, my mother insisted that I wear it. I combined that gem with a truly horrendous pair of orange and purple striped pants for a look that screamed GOLF COURSE. It was just a matter of time before I became Lee Anne’s number one target.

She had a gaggle of friends that I referred to as “The Moronettes.” They clung to Lee Anne like barnacles on a cruise ship, hoping some of her glamour would rub off on them. They were three marginally pretty girls who copied everything Lee Anne did, laughed at all of her jokes, and began teasing me with a vengeance because they believed it would please Lee Anne. Lucky for them, it did.

As a lowly 6th grader, I realized that there was not much I could do to stop the escalating teasing. My parents weren’t going to let me stay home since they were paying for this, and I never told them about any of it. I had no choice but to sit there and smile, laughing when they scored a funny shot (hey, they were funny), and biding my time. I secretly wished I could be like Carrie at the Prom and make them all burst into flames.

So what do you think of my clothes now?

Of course, Sister Clara wasn’t about to let me borrow any books on telekinetics from the Catholic school library, so I was running out of options.

When Lee Anne started calling me “The Good Times Blimp,” I knew I was going to have to hit her to make it stop or they would destroy me. I had plenty of practice watching people tease one another, since my brother Joey was a master at it. If they gave out black belts for teasing, Joey would have been the equivalent of Bruce Lee.

I sat there and weighed my options. I was at least 30 lbs. heavier then Lee Anne and I knew how to throw a punch. My brothers had taught me well, and since I didn’t have to worry about scuffing my nail polish or tearing my clothes, I knew I could strike hard and fast. I was certain I could take her, and possibly snap her in two. The problem was, I was not sure how the larger, less girly Moronettes would respond.

And that’s when fate intervened and my Guardian Angel appeared.

Okay, so it wasn’t an angel. It was a tall, blonde beauty with big blue eyes and groovy clothes. She was a fellow 6th grader, but her street cred was high because she was blessed with natural good looks, older sisters and a great wardrobe.

“Hey, why don’t you stop bothering her? She’s not doing anything to you,” the pretty girl said.

“Who do you think you’re talking to,” Lee Anne said, as she and the Moronettes stood up.

The pretty girl stood up too. “I’m talking to you. And you. And you. And you,” she said, as she poked her finger in their chests.

Lee Anne looked dazed. It was if the universe had suddenly been turned upside down.

“What do you care?” Lee Anne stammered. “We’re not bothering you.”

“You’re bothering her, and it’s bothering me. Leave her alone. Let her bowl. Go find someone else to haunt.”

Lee Anne tried to reason with her. “Look at her! She’s fat! She wears terrible clothes! Don’t you want to tease her?”

“She looks okay to me. But you’re rotten.” The girl replied. She walked over to me and stuck out her hand. “I’m Maureen. Let’s be friends.”

Lee Anne and the Moronettes gave up and walked away.

“Thanks,” I said. “That was nice of you.”

“It was no big deal,” Maureen replied.

“I was going to hit her,” I said.

“Oh too bad. I’m sorry I stopped you.”

Maureen, Maria & Chris at 30th Reunion

We laughed and bowled, and by the end of the 6th grade, we were inseparable.

I guess I’m pretty lucky that my childhood “enemies” helped me find one of my dearest childhood friends. If my daughters are even half as lucky as I was, they will be truly blessed.


One of my favorite things to do after bowling was to walk to the bakery a few doors away. Maureen and I would buy freshly baked French Crullers and then walk all over Bayside while we munched. She taught me about clothes and hair and I taught her about food and fun. It was a great collaboration.

So many crullers, so little time

French Crullers


So, Hungry Lifers…do you have a story to share about your enemies? Frenemies? Why does that word crack me up? Please post a comment below. Thanks!