Tales From A Hungry Life

December 22, 2016

10 Tips for Surviving The Office Holiday Party

by Maria Schulz

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

Wait! I'm not ready

Wait! I’m not ready

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

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

Not the look you're going for

Not the look you’re going for

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

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

Run away!

Run away!

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

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

So long, Crabby

So long, Crabby

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

Weather? Check. Shopping? Check.

Weather? Check. Shopping? Check.

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

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

Dance like Snoopy

Dance like Snoopy

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

Don't be that person

Don’t be that person

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

Recipe

Reindeer Cake!

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

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

December 25, 2013

Across the Christmas Finish Line

By Maria Schulz

Once again, I did it. I crossed the Christmas finish line. I’ve left tons of wrapping paper, baked goods, decorations, Christmas cards, and gift receipts littered in my path, but I completed the marathon and I’m so proud.

Just. One. More. Gift.

Just. One. More. Gift.

It’s too late now to do anything about the gifts that didn’t get here yet. My trusty internet vendors promised to have everything here by December 24th, but bad weather and other trials got in the way. Some things just didn’t get here. You know what? The earth didn’t crash into the sun because my gifts didn’t arrive. Life goes on.

My children are growing up, and that means Santa doesn’t have to come here anymore. I miss leaving him carrots for the reindeer and cookies to hold him over for the rest of the journey. I miss tracking his every move on NORAD. I miss going to the mall to have my kids’ picture taken with him.

Norad-Santa-tracker

You know what I don’t miss? Disguising my handwriting because my kids noticed that Santa and I have the same loopy signature. I don’t miss standing on line for an hour while children scream, or dragging my crying child to sit on some weird stranger’s lap, and having said weird stranger yell at me because I decide it’s not worth it anymore. I don’t miss having to eat cookies left out because Santa needs to show he liked our baking, or eating carrots that I don’t want.

It’s fun to see my girls taking their own earnings from babysitting or gifts to buy something for the people they love. They are moving away from “me, me” and towards “what can I do for others?” This year, they helped me buy toys for The Lexiebean Foundation’s toy drive and intend to help me bring more donations to them on December 28th. That may be my favorite part of crossing the Christmas finish line.

As the sun set yesterday and I realized that some of my gifts weren’t going to get here in time for the Christmas gift opening frenzy, I had a few panic-stricken moments. I considered running out to the local convenience store and getting whatever gifts I could lay my hands on, such as:

  • Boxed mini-cakes. Who doesn’t love them?
  • A giant slush drink: I could tell my brother (whose gifts never arrived) that this reminds me of the little candy store near our old house on 48th Ave. We would walk a half a block from our house when we were 5 years old and enjoy a big slush drink together. Do you think he’ll buy it?
  • A box of dog treats: I never remember to get my dog gifts, and I always feel kind of guilty about it. So instead, I hand her the wrapping paper or the roll from the gift wrap, and she runs around the house tearing it all apart. It’s then that I remember that she doesn’t really care AND she doesn’t even know that it’s Christmas.
  • A mega bottle of ibuprofen: because Christmas is really, really stressful, and I want to show my sensitive side. On second thought, maybe I’ll keep this.

Jean_Nate

  • Jean Nate body wash: even though my grandmother isn’t around anymore and no one I know has ever expressed any desire for it, this might still be a winning gift
  • The Hess truck: while I’m filling up my gas tank, I may just pop in and get this for my little nephew. Wait…what do you mean they’re ALL OUT?
  • A bottle of antibacterial soap: I’ll even throw in a box of bandages
  • A gallon of milk: and a box of chocolate chip cookies, of course
  • Frozen corndogs. ‘Nuff said.

    Do you have Kit Kats?

    Do you have Kit Kats?

  • King-sized Kit Kats: what crazy person wouldn’t love these?
  • A life-sized M&M doll: if the convenience store owner lets me buy the one on display

When I was a kid, we used to pore over the shelves at Genovese Drug Stores looking for the perfect gift for our older relatives. I’d get my grandmother some perfume while I got the other grandmother a box of lavender soaps. My Uncle Don would get a dress shirt or tie, or a record album.

Uncle Sal in his Vaudeville days

Uncle Sal in his Vaudeville days

Uncle Sal (our great uncle) got bottles and bottles of cologne. Old Spice, Halston, Brut, or Soap on a Rope were all wrapped and under the tree, just waiting for him. It’s not that he smelled bad; we just couldn’t think of what else to get an older man who had everything.

We did this for many years until we decided to really put some thought into his gifts, and we collectively showered him with clothes, sweaters, gloves, and records, just to show him that we thought of him as an individual and not some old guy who smelled bad.

When Uncle Sal was done opening his gifts, he looked sad.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I use the cologne and soap you kids buy me all year long,” Uncle Sal said. “Why didn’t anyone get it for me?”

When his birthday came just a couple of months later, we made things right by getting him enough cologne and soap for an army battalion. After this, I learned a valuable gift-giving lesson. If your Uncle isn’t complaining about your last-minute, seemingly impersonal, fall-back gift, why torture yourself searching for something more meaningful?

Old Spice

Thanks, Uncle Sal, for teaching me not to worry so much and to go with what works. It’s a lesson I have to remind myself about every single year. Because in the end, whether you’re buying birthday, Hanukkah, or Christmas gifts, it can be as easy or as complicated as you make it.

I really hope my brother Chris enjoys that bottle of anti-bacterial soap and box of corndogs that I got him.

Recipe:

Christmas Appetizers

penguins

Ooooh…who wouldn’t enjoy bacon wrapped dates, deviled eggs, or cream cheese penguins? Get some great ideas for appetizers at allrecipes.com:

http://allrecipes.com/recipes/holidays-and-events/christmas/appetizers/

Here’s my favorite of the bunch:

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Bacon-and-Date-Appetizer/?prop24=hn_slide2_Wrap-Your-Dates-in-Bacon&evt19=1

bacon wrapped dates

So, Hungry Lifers: did you cross the holiday gift-giving finish line in one piece? What’s the best, no-thought-whatsoever-but-they-loved-it-anyway gift you’ve ever given or received? What’s your favorite Christmas appetizer? Please leave a comment below and let us all know. Thanks!

Merry Christmas! I’m off to my own gift-opening frenzy. Enjoy!

December 11, 2013

Christmas Spirit

by Maria Schulz

Now that the holiday season is here, it makes me think about all the ways we should display Christmas Spirit. That’s not really easy to do, though, since everyone is rushing, there are only 100 parking spots and 500 people shopping, and we have a coupon that’s about to expire and we WANT THE DISCOUNT.

In order to inspire some much-needed holiday spirit this year, I think it’s important to remember a few things. Just answer the following questions and you should have all the information you need to glide through the season with a smile on your face and no mug shot at the police station.

1. When you drive to the mall, you should always:

a) Honk your horn at everyone who crosses your path

b) Let pedestrians cross in front of you

c) Stay in the car, letting it run incessantly, because you HAVE to have the spot closest to the door

d) Cut off as many people as you can, because, hey—you were there first

Answer: B, possibly A, and definitely D

Don't forget the soda

Don’t forget the soda

2. Success! You found a parking spot 3 football fields away, and you’re finally in the mall. The first thing you should do is:

a) Stop at Loralei’s Pretzels and load up on necessary carbs

b) Go over to the engraver’s kiosk to get some gifts, because who doesn’t need another silver pen with their initials on it

c) Run to Thingys & Thingamabobs to make that mechanical puppy roll over 100 times, because that never gets old

d) Look at your list and buy thoughtful gifts that you know they want

Answer: Definitely A & C

SALE!

SALE!

3. There’s a doorbuster sale over at Lunatics ‘R Us. Naturally, this means you should:

a) Put on your running shoes, because you are going to run like there’s an angry bull hot on your heels and about to gore you

b) Print out about 300 coupons, because people on line love it when you use every last one of them

c) Wear roller skates, because you are going to zoom through that store and grab every toy on little kids’ “Dear Santa” lists, and then sell them online for a killing

d) Not determine that the salesperson is stupid, impossible or Satan incarnate and needs to hear what you sound like when you scream all because your coupon has expired

Answer: A & C

Even more lights than this

Even more lights than this

4. You’ve finally left the mall and are driving home. Along the way, you notice a house that has enough Christmas lights on it to be spotted from deep outer space. You immediately:

a) Buy a hot chocolate and go on over to take in the spectacle

b) Drive so close to the neighbors’ cars that you break off one of the side view mirrors

c) Double park right in front of the house, thereby stopping all traffic from passing

d) Go home and leave those poor people alone

Answer: A & D

Great toy drive gift

Great toy drive gift

5. You want to help people less fortunate than you this holiday season. The best way to do it is to:

a) Mention your intention to do this repeatedly, and then completely forget about it

b) Ask your friends how you can participate in something like this, while never really doing anything to make it happen

c) Join a local choir that goes to hospitals and nursing homes to sing such Christmas favorites as “O Tannenbaum” and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”

d) Pick up unwrapped, new toys that you can drop off at a local charity

Answer: C & D

So maybe my tree isn't as big as this

So maybe my tree isn’t as big as this

6. It’s time to put up your Christmas tree! This means you should:

a) Enlist the help of your family, who hasn’t enjoyed helping you do this in, well, ever

b) Begin screaming, because the “plug it in and go” Christmas tree you bought won’t light up and you can’t figure out which string of lights is bad

c) Engage in an all-out battle over who gets to put on the star at the top of the tree

d) Laugh over all of the ornaments you’ve bought together over the years just like they do in those commercials, only you’ll be making fun of each other’s choices

Answer: All of the above

Stamps! I need stamps!

Stamps! I need stamps!

7. It’s time to write out your Christmas cards! Now you should:

a) Check your list and send out over 500 cards to people you never see or talk to or want to see or talk to

b) Write an elaborate newsletter that no one, including you, wants to read and send it to those 500 people

c) Curse yourself for not buying stamps before the rest of the planet decided to go buy stamps, because the people getting your cards won’t read your card if the stamp isn’t holiday related

d) Go to the post office at dawn to get your stamps

Answer: D

COOKIES!

COOKIES!

8. Christmas cookies are an important part of your holiday tradition. This means you should:

a) Tear apart the kitchen cabinets in search of your gingerbread man cookie cutters, because Christmas will NOT COME if you don’t find them

b) Make enough cookies to feed a 3rd world country for a week, then package them up and head to the post office so the people trying to buy stamps can curse you

c) Pull out your grandmother’s ancient cookie recipes and cover yourself in flour in pursuit of the perfect Christmas cookie

d) Buy the refrigerated “cut and go” dough and sit down with your feet up while they bake

Answer: A & D

Dance like Snoopy

Dance like Snoopy

9. Watching Christmas movies is a part of your beloved family traditions. So now you must:

a) Drag the kids into the family room to watch Scrooge even though they think it’s too long and get scared by most of it

b) Answer the age-old question, “why is Santa so rotten?” in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

c) Feel your blood pressure rise when George Bailey takes the fall for Uncle Billy during It’s A Wonderful Life

d) Get up and dance just like Snoopy while Schroeder plays “that Charlie Brown song” during Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown

Answer: All of the above

Get wrapping

Get wrapping

10. You begin to notice that your “needs to be wrapped” pile of gifts is beginning to resemble Mount Everest. You should immediately:

a) Close the door to that room and make believe the gifts are not there until the last possible moment

b) Put on some music and enlist your children to help you wrap the mountain of gifts so you don’t have your yearly epic meltdown

c) Wrap a few presents every single day so you don’t throw your back out wrapping gifts while crouched over the floor in a sweaty panic

d) Keep calm and use aluminum foil and gift bags to wrap all of your gifts

Answer: All of the above

Did you get all the right answers? Me neither. My advice to you is this: do your best to put a smile on your face and help other people whenever you can. That should make the holiday season better, and give the people around you many topics to discuss, like: “has she lost her mind?” “Why does he keep wearing that stupid smile?” and “who does he think he is, Santa effing Claus?”

As for me, I look to the memory of my mother for Christmas inspiration whenever I need to remember what this season is really supposed to be about.

My mother was much nicer then me. She didn’t like to disappoint people and she went out of her way to avoid it. Personally, I don’t enjoy disappointing people, but I figured out a long time ago that sometimes you just can’t help it…and I’m okay with that.

One of the ways that my mother showed compassion was by visiting an elderly nun that we knew. Sister Frannie was a kind, loving little old lady who looked to me like she was about 214 years old. She could have been 50 or 90 for all I knew; it was the same thing as far as I was concerned back then.

We would see Sister Frannie on Thursday nights when we went to the local prayer meeting. She would toddle over and help my mom get the coffee going in the kitchen and talk about the bible with her before and after the meeting.

Sister was a softie; she laughed at all of my jokes and never, ever tried to hit me. She had been a wonderful teacher for many years and now she was retired and living in the local convent.

My mother liked Sister Frannie. The two of them would sit together, chatting and laughing. So it was only natural that my Mom would feel bad when she discovered that Sister Frannie was going to spend Christmas Eve all alone in the convent.

“Can we stop by for a visit?” my mother asked.

“That would be lovely,” Sister Frannie responded.

Like this, only much older

Like this, only much older

Usually, I wasn’t really listening when my mother and Sister Frannie talked. I looked like I was, but I was actually watching my father talk to people across the room, or wondering if I could go get another cookie, or would we get home in time for The Odd Couple reruns? I never realized that I had agreed to spend part of my Christmas Eve in the convent with a centuries-old nun and my mother.

When I was 9, this was a novelty. I helped Mom pick out a soft blue scarf for Sister and then helped wrap the box. We knocked on the convent door, and Sister Frannie was overjoyed to see us there.

So warm

So warm

I sat there quietly while my mother and Sister talked about the prayer meeting, kids these days, who was sick and who was dead, and more riveting chit-chat. I didn’t want to spend any more time then I had to there, since the convent was dark and dreary, and smelled like mothballs and incense. I had never craved sunshine and fresh air so much.

By the time I was 12, I couldn’t wait for this ritual to end. Sure, Sister Frannie was nice, but why were we spending so much time with her every Christmas Eve? My mother handed her a gift and I realized I would be as surprised by what was inside as Sister Frannie was because I didn’t help pick it out and I definitely didn’t wrap it.

“Oh this is lovely,” Sister Frannie said, as she opened a box of candy. “I do so love my sweets.”

I was gazing out the window when my mother nudged me.

“What?” I said.

“Sister Frannie is telling us a story that she wants you to listen to,” my mother said. By the annoyed look on her face, I could tell I had better pay attention.

“Maria dear,” Sister Frannie began. “I think I know what the future holds for you.”

I did not know how to respond to this. “Um. Okay.”

“The Lord wants you to become a nun.”

I burst out laughing and only stopped because my mother kicked me.

“Why are you laughing, my child?” Sister Frannie said.

“Because I thought you said the Lord told you I was going to be a nun.”

“That’s what I did say, dear. It came to me in a vision.”

“Maybe it’s time to get your vision checked, Sister.”

My mother gave me another good shot in the shins before I could get away.

“Oh, I’m quite certain you’re going to become a nun some day. I think God is calling you.”

I shook my head. “Sister, God may be calling, but my phone is off the hook. He better change His plans. There is no way I will ever be a nun.”

Sister fastened her hands around mine. “You will if that’s what God wants.”

I opened my mouth, and then saw my mother out of the corner of my eye. “Well, we’ll see about that.”

When we walked out to the car, my mother was angry. “You were rude to that sweet little old lady. Why can’t you just go along?”

“Nope,” I replied. “No way. Can you see me as a nun?”

My mother laughed. “No, but you hurt her feelings. I think you disappointed her.”

“Why do I have to agree with her if I know it’s not true? Besides, if I don’t protest, every time she sees me she’s going to try to get me to join the order. No thank you!”

My mother eventually forgave me, and she even allowed me to stop coming with her to visit Sister Frannie. Eventually, Sister Frannie went on to her reward, and I didn’t have to make believe I was entertaining the idea that I might be a nun some day.

Years went by. I grew up, got married, and had children. My mother ended up with Alzheimer’s disease, and sometimes, she had visions too.

There came a day around Christmas when I took my mother to my local hair salon so we could both get our hair done. The women in this salon were very kind; I purposely brought my mother there on Tuesdays because it was quiet, and they could devote extra time to her.

If I was getting my hair washed, I didn’t have to worry that my mother would wander out the door while I wasn’t looking; the ladies at the salon watched her and kept her safe.

That day, while we were both getting our hair done, I looked across at my mother and realized that she was talking to someone. I put down my magazine and looked around. There was no one there.

Suddenly, it dawned on me. My mother was having a very spirited (and apparently amusing) conversation with herself in the mirror, but she thought it was a very attractive and like-minded new friend.

My face turned beet red to the roots of my hair. Still, I didn’t know what to do. If I pointed out to my mother that she was having a long conversation WITH HER REFLECTION, she would deny it and get mad at me. But if I did nothing, wouldn’t I be encouraging her in her delusions?

The woman who washed my hair was also watching my mother, and then she came to me with a cup of tea.

“My mother is having a long conversation with herself.” I said.

“I know,” Linda replied. “But she seems happy.”

“This is embarrassing,” I said. “I should stop her.”

“No one is here and she’s not hurting anyone,” Linda said. “Can’t you just go along?”

I nodded as Linda squeezed my shoulder and walked away. My mother’s words from long ago, “Can’t you just go along?” rang in my ears.

I let my mother continue talking to her new friend. Eventually, Linda took her over to the sink and my mother said goodbye to her reflection/pal. I took my mother home, where all was forgotten about her new “friend” and even the fact that she got her hair done.

But for just one moment, my mother was happy. Couldn’t I have done the same thing for Sister Frannie so many years earlier? So what if I was never going to be a nun. Couldn’t I just smile and feel happy that she saw something in me that was good, and she wanted to share her happiness with me?

While my mother isn’t here anymore and can’t give me candy or scarves to let me know she’s thinking of me, I can still remember how easily she gave of herself at Christmas. I remember how she bought gifts that were small, but thoughtful. I remember how she saw a little old lady who had spent her life giving to others and reached out to make sure she wasn’t alone and forgotten on Christmas Eve.

I remember all those things and try my best to be kind, even though I am still stressed out, obviously the anti-Martha Stewart, and a far cry from Mother Theresa.

Because that’s what Christmas is really all about, Charlie Brown.

Recipe:

Christmas Cookies

Yay! Christmas cookies

Yay! Christmas cookies

Get your Christmas cookie groove on with this list of 25 Essential Christmas Cookies, including chocolate chip, fudge crinkles, sugar cookies, and oh yes, gingerbread men.

http://www.food.com/slideshow/25-essential-christmas-cookies-140

So, Hungry Lifers: what do you do to try and keep the Christmas spirit? Who do you look to for inspiration? What’s your favorite Christmas cookie? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks, and have a happy 2 weeks until Christmas!

November 27, 2013

Thankful Things

by Maria Schulz

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

Yes, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. What this means for everyone is that they’re supposed to think about all of the things they’re thankful for in their lives. However, this day before Thanksgiving means different things to different people, depending on how old you are. For example, if you’re a school-aged child, it means:

1) You will have to write an essay called “What I’m Thankful For”

2) If you are under 10, you will probably be wearing a pilgrim’s hat or a feather on your head

Fashionable thanksgiving attire

Fashionable Thanksgiving attire

3) You’ll be eating pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin cookies, and possibly turning orange, at your classroom’s Thanksgiving Party

4) You will take a quiz called, “Which food was at the first Thanksgiving Day feast?” Hint: Turkey might not have been on the menu.

5) You will be asked to put your hand on a piece of paper, trace around it, and make your own turkey decoration/centerpiece

Many of these things can also apply to grown-ups. For instance, if you work outside of your home, you may find:

1) The office cafeteria will serve turkey, cranberries, mashed potatoes and stuffing with gravy for lunch. Which makes no sense, because you’ll be having all of that tomorrow

2) You may be asked to write a report titled, “What I’m Thankful For”

3) Your co-workers will be wearing a pilgrim’s hat or a feather on their heads, but if you work in a creative environment, that’s probably true every other day of the year

Good all year long

Good all year long

4) You will gorge yourself on pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin cookies, and possibly turn orange

5) You will take an online quiz called: “Which food was at the Thanksgiving Day feast?” and get mad when your answer, turkey, is wrong. Then you’ll trace your hand and make your own turkey to help you feel better about things

Get tracing

Get tracing

Turning orange and failing online quizzes aside, here are a few things I’m really thankful for this year:

Winners!

Winners!

  • Amber Riley won Dancing With The Stars, and I called it. This may not mean much to 99.9% of the world, but it gives me bragging rights in my little DWTS fan club, which very often, consists of my dog and me. Unless she’s tired, and then it’s a party of one
  • I found my Planes, Trains and Automobiles DVD in time for this holiday, instead of on January 2nd like I did last year. Now I get to be infuriated, delighted and heart-warmed (not wormed) by Steve Martin and John Candy all over again. It’s beginning to look a lot like Thanksgiving
Those aren't pillows

Those aren’t pillows

  • While I may have to push back the publication date of my book by a week or so, the manuscript is done and so it should be seeing the light of day very shortly. So yes, Virginia, there is going to be a Tales of a Hungry Life: A Memoir with Recipes book at an Amazon store near you
So glad this isn't me

So glad this isn’t me

  • The song “It’s Raining Men” is going through my head, because it’s raining so hard outside right now that it sounds like there are actually large men hitting the house. So why am I thankful? Because it’s not snowing so hard I might see Polar Bears walking by soon
  • Being a wife and mom is a lot of work. There are days I just want to curl up in a ball, eat bon bons, and catch up on TV shows I missed completely (anyone for a Breaking Bad marathon?). But then, I look at my husband or gaze into my kids’ faces, and I realize that it’s all going so fast, that I’m lucky to be here, and it really is exciting and fun. I’m so glad I got to go on this ride, even if it does leave me dizzy and nauseous sometimes
  • I managed to do all of my Thanksgiving shopping without having a total nervous breakdown. Also, I no longer need to get a goat because I have enough milk and cheese to get me through the next two days

    Wait…no goat?

    Wait…no goat?

  • I survived the 2 day, 4 hour filler-fest that is the Dancing With The Stars finale, and I even got to see Bill Engvall and his partner, Emma Slater, make it all the way to the finals. They did a free style! He never expected to get past Week 2! They are friends for life! If you didn’t believe in miracles before, how can you not believe in them now?

    ©ABC images

    ©ABC images

  • My book club continues to recommend books that make me think and help me become a better writer. Plus everyone always brings the best salads (yes, I do actually eat salad on occasion), cakes, cookies, breads, wine and cheese. Here’s a book we just read that I recommend highly.

    Great book

    Great book

  • My blog. Yes, I panic every Tuesday because I pledged to write a post every Wednesday for the rest of this year, and I have no idea what I’m going to write about until I sit down and do it. But as much as I complain about it, I thoroughly enjoy it. No, I might never be famous or get invited to be a contestant on Dancing With The Stars (now that would be terrifying), but I do get the pleasure of writing for all of the people who are kind enough to drop by every week. And for that, I’m really thankful.
  • I am so grateful for the people who made me the person I am, but who aren’t here anymore. I’d like to say they’re off in Rio de Janeiro dancing and eating and having a great time, because then I could call them or visit them. But no, I’m talking about gone, as in gone and never coming back because they’ve moved on to the next life.
    Uncle Don and Maria in the 80s

    Uncle Don and Maria in the 80s

    My Uncle Don was someone who always made me laugh, and I’m very grateful to have had him in my life. Remembering him on these holidays makes me smile, and helps me appreciate the family and friends that are still here with me (and who haven’t run away to Rio de Janeiro). So I’m grateful for everything he gave me, and still gives me to this day.

  • Finally, in a world that’s filled with natural disasters, heartbreak, and bad things happening to good people, sometimes life gives a little something back. Here’s a story that made me feel very thankful: Heartwarming Reunion: Illinois Tornado Survivor Finds His Missing Dog Buried Alive Under Rubble – weather.com

http://www.weather.com/tv/tvshows/i-am-unstoppable/man-finds-missing-dog-illinois-tornado-rubble-20131118?cm_ven=Email&cm_cat=article_share

Thankful

Thankful

Recipe:

Corn Pudding

My friend, Joanie, tried this recipe and said her son told her it was “the best side dish” he’d ever had. So, if you’re looking for something a little different to try with your traditional Thanksgiving day meal, this one looks easy and delicious.

Great Thanksgiving side

Great Thanksgiving side

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/thanksgiving-corn-pudding/

So, Hungry Lifers: what are you thankful for? Do you want to be a Dancing With the Stars contestant? What’s your favorite Thanksgiving side dish? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Happy Thanksgiving!

November 20, 2013

Here Comes Thanksgiving

by Maria Schulz

I've got a lot to be thankful for

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for

Thanksgiving is a time when we are all supposed to think about the many things we are absolutely, without a doubt, grateful to have in our lives. Believe me, I have many things to put on my “What I’m Grateful for this Thanksgiving” list. But there are some other things I feel compelled to consider as Thanksgiving barrels down upon us. So here are my:

8 Ways to Avoid Stress This Thanksgiving

1. Thanksgiving shoppers: out of the pool. Grocery shopping is already a pain, but add in Thanksgiving and suddenly it becomes the 7th ring of hell. On a normal day, you can run into the store and get a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread in under 5 minutes. But in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, you have to run through the store with your head lowered and your elbows out  just to get to the dairy aisle.

Now that everyone is out buying turkey and all the fixin’s, it takes forever to get out of the store, let alone the parking lot. I say there should be a “non-Thanksgiving shoppers” time slot every hour, sort of like adult swim–when anyone under 18 gets tossed out of the pool, only in this instance, it’s anyone who is buying 1200 Thanksgiving ingredients. That way, I can get my everyday staples AND buy about 7 gallons of milk and 7 loaves of bread right now and forget about going to the market until after the holiday passes.

Heidi

Or, I could make believe I’m Heidi and bake bread and adopt a goat to get my milk and cheese until this week is over. Luckily, I have lots of tin cans and old newspapers the goat can eat, and a lawn that needs mowing. I hope the goat likes leaves. I’ve got lots of them.

Sound good? Maybe you should get a goat too.

Wouldn't you like a goat too?

Wouldn’t you like a goat too?

2. Eat, turkey, eat! Did you hear that one of the giant poultry manufacturers announced a possible turkey shortage due to the fact that their poultry is seriously underweight this year? Now, I have some questions for them: Why are your turkeys so skinny? Do they follow a no-carb diet? Do they run marathons? Are they supermodels?

Also, if you know that Thanksgiving is coming and you count on “Turkey Day” to make tons of money, why didn’t you start fattening your birds up over the summer? I think that manufacturer should immediately send those turkeys to my house. They will probably gain 5 pounds just by sitting on the couch next to me while watching the Knicks play really bad basketball. Also, they can keep my goat company.

If worse comes to worst, I will just fire up the old popcorn maker and create a Thanksgiving feast ala Snoopy and the Peanuts gang in “Happy Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown.”

Popcorn and toast, anyone?

Popcorn and toast, anyone?

When I first heard about the possible turkey shortage, I started to panic…but then I realized I am not even making a turkey this year. But even if I was, another poultry manufacturer announced that they have plenty of turkeys and they expect to fully meet customer demand.

Whew. I feel better already.

3. Fully enjoy this holiday before you get caught up in the insanity that comes with the next one. Thanksgiving isn’t even here yet, and I heard Christmas music on my radio the other day. That’s right: songs that demand I start rocking around the Christmas tree and building snowmen SHOULD NOT BE ON YET.

I had barely enough time to put away my grim reaper and skull decorations, finish my two baskets of Halloween candy, and scream at Sally not to wait with Linus in the Pumpkin Patch because there is no Great Pumpkin before I started seeing ads for Christmas movies and Black Friday shopping specials.

I'm not ready for you yet

I’m not ready for you yet

I can’t even buy a couple of gallons of milk and some bread ahead of time. What makes the world think I’m ready for Christmas when I haven’t even had my (too skinny) turkey dinner?

4. Inventory your pantry and cupboards so you have all the ingredients you need for Thanksgiving. And then, map out the route to the nearest open store on Thanksgiving morning, because dollars to donuts, you will have forgotten something that someone on your invitation list will feel they cannot live without at your holiday dinner.

This has happened to me many times. It’s caused me to wake up in the middle of the night in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, crying out I FORGOT THE CRANBERRIES! Or “I DON’T HAVE ANY DECAF AND MY MOTHER-IN-LAW ONLY DRINKS DECAF!”

This may be a good time to consider making reservations instead. Or possibly, getting yourself into therapy. And when I say you, I mean me.

5. Remember that your family members are your team: don’t feel afraid to ask for their help. That’s right, folks. Invite your kids into the kitchen to help you prep the giant, skinny turkey at 5 am, eat pumpkin bread fresh and hot from the oven, and laugh together while you sing Kumbaya.

Kumbaya

Kumbaya

No, wait…that was a commercial I saw last year for pumpkin bread. What will really happen is that the members of your team will refuse to get out of bed before noon, at which point you will already be up for 7 hours because the last skinny turkey you found on the shelf had to go into the oven at the crack of dawn.

You will have made about 50 different side dishes and 3 pies by this time. You also have pumpkin bread, but your family hates pumpkin bread. Worst of all, none of your kids even rolled over when you burst into their rooms, screaming, “SANTA IS ABOUT TO RIDE HIS SLEIGH INTO HERALD SQUARE! GET UP! GET UP!”

Here comes Santa Claus

Here comes Santa Claus

You just might have to wave at Santa Claus by yourself this year.

6. Don’t buy the regular pumpkin in the big orange can; buy the pumpkin pie mix in the identical big orange can. This is an easy mistake to make, but it will lead to dire consequences. Your pumpkin pie may come out really, really bad because you thought you had the can with all the ingredients in it. Of course, this will lead the earth to spin off its axis and we will all die a horrible death as a result.

No, wait. None of that will actually happen. You’ll just have a pie that requires a little more work to make it taste good, which may be just as horrific, since who has time for that?

Buy this can. Save the world.

Buy this can. Save the world.

We never ate pumpkin pie in my parents’ house. I realize now that when my mother said, “You don’t like pumpkin pie” she meant, “I don’t like pumpkin pie.” Anything my mother didn’t like DID NOT get made.

I can’t say I blame her. She had to cook for up to 20 people (and that was a small crowd) and make alternate dishes for my grandmother and great uncle (who hated cheese), plus make a pasta dish, the turkey, side dishes, desserts, plus breakfast and dinner for that same grandmother and great uncle, who came at dawn and left at midnight.

My husband and his family DO like pumpkin pie, so I’ve been making it for decades. I even like it now. Although when my kids ask me why there’s no pecan pie, I say: “You don’t like pecan pie.”

7. Priorities, priorities, priorities. Wash every piece of fine china you own and then polish your silver. Hand-wash your fine crystal until it gleams. Then iron your finest tablecloth and all of the matching napkins. Run outside to gather some leaves, pinecones, and twigs, and use your glue gun to create a masterful centerpiece.

Oooh…shiny

Oooh…shiny

Spend days dusting, vacuuming, moving furniture to clean behind and spray everything with cleaner until it’s so sparkly, it hurts your eyes to look at it. Then, when you’re just about on the verge of a total nervous breakdown, start cooking your 12-course Thanksgiving meal while shooting your wife or husband dirty looks because they never do anything.

If this is the only way you can enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday, by all means–go for it.

Or, better yet, remember that you are not Martha Stewart, and stop by the party goods store. Buy plates, cups, silverware, vinyl tablecloths, a festive paper tablecloth to go over the vinyl one, and a paper turkey centerpiece (make sure he’s not too skinny). Decorate the table like you are five and aren’t responsible enough to use the good china or crystal.

No twigs required

No twigs required

Clean your home just well enough that it doesn’t look like a deranged vagrant lives there. Cook a meal that hits all the holiday favorites, but doesn’t go completely overboard.

When everyone is done eating your basic turkey, vegetables, sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping diner and pumpkin pie dessert feast, and you’ve cleared away the leftovers, you and your spouse can make the clean-up part of your celebration fast and easy.

How? First, you and your spouse should grab the two corners of the tablecloth on opposite ends of the table. Next: run towards each other. After that: clasp hands and tablecloth corners. And finally: bundle the whole thing up and throw it in the garbage.

Like this, but with garbage

Like this, but with garbage

See? I just saved you a whole week’s worth of backbreaking work, angry words, and hurt feelings when one or both spouses think the other one never does anything.

You’re welcome.

8. Actually call the people on your invitation list. Yes, Aunt Sally may have been coming to your house since the days when animals got on Noah’s Ark in pairs, but that doesn’t mean she will come this year. Why? Perhaps it’s because she made other plans since you never invited her.

Run, Aunt Sally! Run!

Run, Aunt Sally! Run!

I know it’s almost unfathomable to think of Aunt Sally as someone with a social life and options beyond your house on Thanksgiving, but stranger things happen. Maybe the other 364 days of the year, Aunt Sally passes her days by running with the bulls in Spain, teaching chimpanzees how to handle a pistol, or bowling for dollars.

Is this how you do it, Aunt Sally?

Is this how you do it, Aunt Sally?

Or maybe she does nothing but sit in her tiny house and watch Revenge, Homeland, Breaking Bad and Murder She Wrote re-runs. It’s hard to say.

In any event, you should go ahead and call people. Extend the invitation, even if you figure they’ll be coming over anyway. You’ll get to have a quick chat and let the other person know that you really want them at your house this Thanksgiving.

Just make sure to ask if they’re allergic to goats.

Recipe:

Best Ever Pumpkin Pie

Best Ever.

Best Ever.

Even though my mother didn’t like pumpkin pie, I sure do. So here’s a recipe for the Best Ever Pumpkin Pie. This one got lots of good reviews—and it looks pretty easy too.

http://www.food.com/recipe/best-ever-pumpkin-pie-28758

So, Hungry Lifers: what’s your least favorite part about prepping for Thanksgiving? Did you get your turkey yet? Is Aunt Sally coming over this Thanksgiving? Please leave a comment below and let us all know. Thanks!