Tales From A Hungry Life

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.


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.


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!