Tales From A Hungry Life

August 24, 2016

8 Great Ways to Pursue Happiness

They look happy

They look happy

I just read an article about happiness that got me thinking.

A Harvard psychologist says that too many people have got this happiness thing all wrong. Instead of sitting around thinking up ways to be happier, the researchers say that you should just go out and live your life. Stop thinking about it! It’s okay to be unhappy, just don’t sit around worrying about how to be happier. The key finding was: in order to find happiness, you have to be okay with being unhappy sometimes. Just accept it. Sometimes, you’re not going to be happy. Embrace it, man! It’s okay. Don’t sweep those bad feelings under the rug. Apparently, the key to a happier life is being emotionally agile and becoming your true, authentic self.

Um…what?

I am no psychologist. I don’t even play one on TV. But I have to ask…do we really need to research this kind of thing? I thought everyone was basically unhappy anyway. To paraphrase another Seinfeld episode (substituting the word happiness for humor) “happiness is like gossamer. One does not dissect gossamer.”

Ready? Here we go...

Ready? Here we go…

So, in the interests of helping the unhappy be more authentic and tap into their happier selves, I’m going to offer my:

8 Great Ways to Pursue Happiness…Or At Least My Version of It

  1. Laugh. A lot. Life can be frustrating, energy draining, infuriating, and disappointing. So what? If you can’t find something to laugh at in the idiocy all around you, you’re just not trying hard enough.
  2. Feed Your Soul. Whether you like to paint waterlilies or sing the entire soundtrack of Grease, do it. You don’t have to be perfect. Just do what you love and that happiness thing will come a’calling.

    Just have fun

    Just have fun

  3. Feed Your Face. Yeah, I’m going there. I’m not suggesting you bury your emotions in a gallon of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, but if you’ve had a rough day and all you want in the whole world is some Chunky Monkey, HAVE IT. Don’t make it bigger than it already is. And the key to not making yourself bigger than you already are is Portion Control. The key word here is control. You’re in charge.
  4. Remember: You’re In Charge. That’s right. No one else is responsible for your happiness. It’s all on you, baby. Own your mistakes. Own your disappointments. Only you can change what makes you unhappy, and only you can identify what you need in your life. So what are you waiting for?
  5. Don’t Ignore Your Inner Cynic. Listen to what he/she has to say, because you will probably learn what you really need from him or her. But by the same token, don’t always listen. Your Inner Cynic is a jerk sometimes.

    Hello, I'm your Inner Cynic

    Hello, I’m your Inner Cynic

  6. Get Out of Your House. And while you’re at it, get out of your head. Want to meet people? Tired of being lonely? Think everyone but you is having a good time? Leave the house! Unless you live in Grand Central Station, chances are all the fun stuff is going on elsewhere. Get out there and find it. Join a bicycle club, running club, baking club, whatever. Don’t go there with the thought: I have to meet my one true love! Go there thinking: I’m sick of watching The Bachelor. Que sera, sera. Just go with it.
  7. Volunteer. It’s true: doing things for others is a really great way to find happiness. Walk dogs at the local shelter (they’re always desperate for help); attend a Special Olympics event and cheer on people who are competing; help the local food pantry stock their shelves. There are a million ways to help other people. Go find one that is meaningful to you and reap the rewards.

    Don't you want to walk me?

    Don’t you want to walk me?

  8. Change the World. Or at least your corner of it. Campaign for a worthy candidate. Raise funds for your school at the next bake sale. Go down the block and clear trash out of your local park. Don’t just sit there waiting for love, romance, happiness, and meaning to come to you. Go find it while you’re not looking for it.

If none of these suggestions work for you, that’s okay. I never said I was a Happiness Guru. It all goes back to #4 (see above). You need to figure out what you can do for YOURSELF. You don’t need to read about ways to make yourself happier. Get lost in pursuing your dreams or making life better for others and that happiness thing will naturally take care of itself.

So good!

So good!

Recipes:

Chunky Monkey Ice Cream

Banana and Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Get that monkey off your back and have some of this delicious ice cream! You can follow these recipes from allrecipes.com as is or make modifications based on reader comments–less sugar, more ripe bananas, etc. Follow your taste buds and I bet you’ll be happy!

So, Hungry Lifers…what’s your favorite way to be happy? Are you in touch with your authentic self? What comfort food makes you smile from ear to ear? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

 

July 8, 2015

Summer Loving

by Maria Schulz

Hot, hot, hot

Hot, hot, hot

There are few things in life that are as full of sensory delights as the summer. To say that I love the summer is an understatement of grand proportions. If summer was another kid when I was growing up, we would have been best friends forever and ever and ever, plus infinity.

Did I mention that I love summer?

Here are the sights, sounds, smells, textures, tastes, and memories of summer that are THE BOMB. They always make me feel like a kid again.

San Juan beach

  • Bright sunshine on a cloudless day
  • Pouring rain and indoor guests
  • Peppers and eggs on a crusty roll (thanks Aunt Mary, wherever you are)
  • Sea gulls squawking overhead
  • The crack of a softball bat and loud cheers
  • The squeal of a Roman candle on the 4th of July
  • Sand castles and wave avoidance with my husband and girls
  • The dazzle of sparklers on a dark, starry night
  • My mother’s magnetic smile, my grandmother’s and uncle’s laughter, and cousin Eleanor’s screams as her son threw her in the pool at family barbecues
  • Water in my lungs as cousin Bob tried to teach me to swim

    I will say the secret to a long life is lemon ice

    I will say the secret to a long life is lemon ice

  • Goosebumps when I held my husband’s hand for the first time
  • Watermelon’s sweet tang and syrupy goodness as it dribbles down your chin
  • My brother’s band turning the volume “up to 11” as we sang All the Young Dudes at outdoor fairs
  • The welcome rush of cold, cold air at the movie houses and the joy of summer blockbusters: Jaws, The Empire Strikes Back, and E.T.
  • Bike riding in the woods with my husband and girls
  • Walking hand in hand with my father as we slurped Italian ices
  • Suntan lotion, sea breezes, and an ocean of humanity at Jones Beach

    Better in color

    Better in color

  • The creeping sense that an old boyfriend was a moron for watching the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks show on a ten inch black and white TV
  • My girls giggling at clambakes and s’mores-making nights on Cape Cod
  • Swimming under a starlit sky with my little family
  • Driving and sweating in the back of our old green station wagon with my brothers
  • Sun burned skin, sand in your shorts, and the smell of Coppertone
  • The long, sweaty, smelly bus ride home from Jones Beach
  • Driving with my husband, convertible top down, hair flying, sunshine-kissed skin, in our little red car
  • The ding, ding, ding of the Ice Cream Man’s truck

    We all scream for ice cream

    We all scream for ice cream

  • The sound of lapping water against the Circle Line as the Statue of Liberty edges closer and closer
  • Standing on line at the Fresh Meadows Theater to see Grease for the very first time

    We'll always be together....

    We’ll always be together….

  • Standing on line at the Fresh Meadows Theater with my mother, sister-in-law, best friend, and niece at the 20th anniversary showing of Grease. We were born to hand jive, baby!
  • Watching Grease with my girls and singing every song at the top of my lungs (there are worse things I could do)
  • Impromptu fireworks—and the boom, boom, boom of cherry bombs bursting all around us
  • Tony and Kathie, Chris and John, Maureen and me at The Quartet’s opening night of Polyester, filmed in smell-o-rama (watch out for #9 on your odorama card! Whew)

    Scratch-n-Sniff goes to the movies

    Scratch-n-Sniff goes to the movies

  • Walking to Carvel’s with my big brother’s girlfriend, Cindy, hand pressed firmly into hers, to get a Cherry Bonnet

RECIPE: S’MORES, of course!

smores

Graham crackers, chocolate squares, and toasted marshmallows. Press the chocolate squares and toasted marshmallows into two graham crackers and get ready for a taste explosion. Who needs a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and you?

Use dark chocolate if you want to make believe you’re healthy. It’s milk chocolate all the way for me! I’m living on the edge! If you want to use it too, your secret’s safe with me.

So, Hungry Lifers: what sights/sounds/smells/tastes/touches remind you of summer? Is this your favorite season? What’s your favorite summer recipe? Please leave a comment. Thanks!

November 6, 2013

I’m On Fire

by Maria Schulz

When you read the news these days, you can’t help but notice some really odd stories floating around out there. For instance, there’s the story of the 33-year-old man who spent over $100,000.00 so he could look like Justin Beiber (now that’s money well spent) or the story of how Robin Thicke compares himself and his wife to John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/19/plastic-surgery-justin-bieber-100k_n_4128563.html

http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2013/11/robin-thicke-miley-cyrus-paula-patton?mbid=synd_wonderwall

To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen when he debated Dan Qualye a.k.a. “Mr. Potato Head”, I would have to say, “I liked John Lennon. John Lennon was a “friend” of mine. You, sir, are no John Lennon.”

So, with these lofty thoughts rattling around in my head, I came across an article about a man whose home was burning down. He immediately saved his family and pets, and made sure everyone was safe and sound. And then, inexplicably, he went back into his burning home…and saved his beer.

http://www.delish.com/food/recalls-reviews/man-rescues-beer-house-fire

Save me

Save me

It got me to thinking: was it really, really GOOD beer? Is it the kind of beer you can only get from a burning building? Was this his idea of a noble quest?

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if your house is on fire:

1. Now that my family and pets are safe, I should definitely:

a) Go back inside that burning building and get my beer out

b) While there, grab a bag of marshmallows so’s I can get me some roasted marshmallows

c) Stay away from anything that’s in flames because flames burn and kill

d) Douse myself with gasoline and THEN re-enter the house

Answer: A & B

2. The term “back draft” applies to:

a) That movie with Kurt Russell and William Baldwin

b) That thing that almost kills you when you run back inside your burning house to save your beer

c) What you feel when your plumbers’ pants don’t cover your butt

d) All of the above

Answer: D

3. People don’t remember that you’re a hero when:

a) After you rescue every living thing in your house, you run back inside and almost kill yourself to save some beer

b) You risk the lives of firefighters who would’ve gladly given you a beer if you’d only asked

c) You choose to save beer and not the priceless Van Gogh painting you didn’t even know you had hanging in your living room

d) You don’t know who Van Gogh is unless we say, “that painter guy who cut his own ear off.”

Answer: A & B

At least this man got out alive and everyone had a good chuckle. He even got to save a few cans of beer after all. So, I guess there really was a happy ending to this story.

I could’ve left it there, but unfortunately (for you), this got me thinking. I started to wonder what truly stupid things I would rush back into a burning building to save. So, here’s my list of:

The Top 15 Stupid Things I Might, in Some Parallel Universe, Rush into a Burning Building to Save

Great. Bread. Recipe.

Great. Bread. Recipe.

#15: My Charlie Brown Cookbook

This actually did go up in flames when my parents’ house got hit by lightening and burned down. You can read about that fun-filled moment in my life in my upcoming book, Tales From a Hungry Life: A Memoir With Recipes. Coming to Amazon in just a few weeks! (How’s that for a shameless self-promotion?)

Now that I finally found a copy of Charlie Brown’s lunch bag cookbook on the internet, there’s no way I’d let it go up in flames again—even though I only use one of the recipes.

Always a crowd pleaser

Always a crowd pleaser

#14: My Dancing Green Man (pictured here with his girlfriend)

When life hands you lemons, wind up your little green man and he will make you feel like starting your own lemonade stand, then selling a 10% stake to it on Shark Tank and making millions. My little green man sits on my desk and dances across it whenever I feel like I need a lift. I think he’s hilarious. All right, so he’s not a case of beer, but still.

Oh! I can add more

Oh! I can add more

#13: Jenga

C’mon…I can (and often do) play this game for hours. There is nothing quite like the challenge of building something that can defy the laws of physics (whatever that means) as well as common sense. I like to think of it as my personal model of “hope trumping experience.” This one’s gotta be saved!

#12: Kit Kat Bars

Gimme a break, Gimme a break. Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar! I realize if I ran into a burning building to save these, my Kit Kats would probably be nothing more than a pile of liquid chocolate gold, leaving me to cry and shake my fist at the universe as the building crashed all around me. But still, I would never forgive myself if I didn’t try.

#11: The Game of Life

Important life lessons AND a plastic car filled with peg people

Important life lessons AND a plastic car filled with peg people

My friend Ann and I used to sit in my old bedroom when we were kids and play this game all afternoon long. It was like a religion to us. After school was over, we’d walk up to Gunther’s Deli and get Suzie Q’s and cokes, and then sit in my room and wind our way along the path of Life. We wouldn’t stop until we’d packed our cars full of kids and ended up millionaires. A fiery grave is NOT for the Game of Life.

Really. I'm going to use these

Really. I’m going to use these

#10: My Kettle Bells

Because after the fire, I’m really, REALLY going to get into shape.

#9: The Twilight Saga

Of course I’m just kidding. If I had these outside with me, I might throw them back in to the burning building.

#8: My dog’s hedgehog toy

Faithful friend, I would never leave you behind

Faithful friend, I would never leave you behind

It takes FOREVER for my dog to lay down and go to sleep. Yes, I know we all would have to learn how to adjust, especially after our home burned down. But there’s no way I’m going to have her pacing all over the place, looking for her hedgehog. Did you ever see the movie, Best In Show? Think bumblebee toys and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

#7: My Minions Tee-Shirt

2 Kool 2 Burn

2 Kool 2 Burn

This tee-shirt is really soft and makes me laugh whenever I see it. Now if that’s not a good enough reason to risk 3rd degree burns and possible death, I don’t know what is.

#6: A Jar of Nutella

While I’m inside, I might also grab some bananas and whip up some crepes that I’ll stuff with Nutella. What, I don’t have time for that kind of thing?

#5: Count Chocula

I have not eaten Count Chocula in several decades….BUT, if I actually had a box of this in my possession, and it was trapped in a burning building, I would feel compelled to free the Count from his fiery end.

Get it out before it melts

Get it out before it melts

#4: Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey

Do I really need to explain this one? Obviously, worth going back into any building to retrieve, even if the entire building is in flames.

#3: My Bowling Ball

It's not like they have these at every bowling alley

It’s not like they have these at every bowling alley

Yes, I’m pretty sure that I’d run past my favorite books, beloved photos, and my bike for my bowling ball. Right.

#2: My Sombrero

You can't have just one

You can’t have just one

Look, if my house is burning on a sunny day, I’ll need to shade my eyes. Also, Cinco de Mayo just wouldn’t be complete without this necessary headwear. It’s not like I can find a sombrero on any old street corner, or at the local party store. So flames be damned!

#1: Matches

You never know when a pack of these will come in handy. I keep the ones I got for my wedding—the ones that said, “Gary & Mana,” just in case there’s a birthday cake that needs a few candles set ablaze. They’re also there because I like to remember not to take myself very seriously…because Mana don’t play that game.

Recipe:

I imagine if I were forced to stand by and watch all of my worldly possessions go up in a fiery conflagration, I’d need something sweet to revive me, possibly before, during, and after. This coffee flavored ice cream might be a good place to start.

This will cool you off

This will cool you off

Coffee-Drenched Ice Cream

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/coffee-drenched-ice-cream-50400000110490/

So, Hungry Lifers…if you had to choose a few very, very stupid things to run back into a burning building for, what would they be? What food would you choose to eat while watching this horror unfold? Would you be hungry? As a matter of fact, I would probably be hungry, but that’s why this blog is called…oh never mind. Please leave a comment and let us know your thoughts. Thanks!

May 29, 2013

Chasing The Ice Cream Man

by Maria Schulz

Now that the temperatures are starting to rise, there are signs of spring everywhere. The trees are budding, the flowers are blooming, and the birds are singing. But most telling of all is the siren song I hear in the distance: the ice cream man cometh.

We all scream for ice cream

We all scream for ice cream

As a kid, the only thing that could break up a game of running bases or wiffle ball was the “Ring Ring” of the ice cream truck. This was never to be confused with the “Gong Gong” of the blade sharpening truck that made us yell “CAR, CAR, C-A-R” because there was no “TRUCK, TRUCK, T-R-U-C-K” chant equivalent.

When the chime of the ice cream truck finally drifted across the breeze, we would cock our heads just so; do the math to approximate distance and estimated time of arrival; and run for our houses like grim death was running after us. You had to get home fast, shake the change loose from the couch cushions, and get back outside to follow the ringing bells or you risked missing the ice cream man.

Sometimes, I’d hop on my lavender banana seat bike with the daisy-studded wicker basket and ride towards the sound of the clanging bells. I could usually track him down, the same way a bloodhound can find an escaped convict by catching his scent on the breeze. It was best to always take action, since you could never be sure if he would remember to come to your block.

Just like mine, except my seat was white with flowers and I had a matching basket.

Just like mine, except my seat was white with flowers and I had a matching basket.

Ice cream was serious business when I was young. God forbid you got money from your mother/father/brother/sister and then came home with your booty…but forgot to get theirs. In some parts of my neighborhood, this was a capital crime, or at least a federal offense. You could be certain to never get money from them again, and after all, how many times can you find enough change in the couch cushions to support your ice cream habit?

The most fortuitous ice cream man spotting (like spotting a whale on one of those Cape Cod sailing excursions or getting your picture taken with a Yeti) occurred once or twice every summer when your grandparents were around.

Did you say ice cream?

Did you say ice cream?

I would go into Flushing to visit my grandmother on the hottest, stickiest days. We would walk to Main Street slowly, watching the heat rise from the sewer covers and trudging to conserve energy. My grandmother didn’t have a car and she couldn’t see the sense in jumping on the bus to go 10 or 15 stops when you could just walk. She was from Puerto Rico, so a little heat didn’t bother her.

monkeys in a barrel

Mom, Nanny and I would walk three across, like those monkeys in a barrel that looped arms. Sometimes, I’d break the chain to walk with my brother Chris, who was strolling behind us.

We’d saunter into Korvettes, soaking in all the air conditioning we could get, and hit the record aisles. Chris would look at all the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin albums and then make fun of me for wanting Linda Ronstadt’s Living in the U.S.A.

Next we’d hit the toy aisle, where I would beg (and sometimes convince) my mother and grandmother to buy me a Julia or Cher doll. Barbie Sweet Sixteen would have to wait on the shelf until my birthday came along.

Can I get Sonny next time?

Can I get Sonny next time?

We’d venture back out into the dense, humid air just long enough to duck into one of the local stores like BANG BANG, where we would look at all the disco clothes and laugh while we danced. Then it was back out into the hazy day with a quick stop under the train trestle. If we were lucky, my grandmother would spring for a pair of moccasins or jewelry for me and a baseball cap or bucket hat (a la Gilligan from Gilligan’s Island) for Chris.

Then we would begin the long, scorching walk back to her apartment house. It was so hot sometimes that I felt like Lawrence of Arabia, trudging through the desert, dying for a glass of water and the first glimpse of civilization.

And then, a miracle occurred: Mr. Softee was on my grandmother’s corner.

Mister_Softee

I would begin praying silently until I heard my grandmother say in broken English: “Let’s get some ice cream.”

Before she could change her mind, my brother and I ran to the ice cream truck and got on line. There were usually some soaking wet kids in front of us who had just come from splashing in the open fire hydrant. Other kids from local apartment complexes who were lucky enough to have a pool stood on line too, looking a lot more refreshed than Chris and me.

I would read over the list of goodies. Sometimes I’d go cheap and get an ice cream sandwich or an ice pop. Once or twice, my mother and grandmother told me to pick out a sundae that we could all share.

Of course, I’d have to go with the Shaggy Dog, which was a few scoops of vanilla ice cream, with a coconut “face,” sprinkles, and “fur” that was actually chocolate fudge sauce. Man’s Best Friend!

Alas, Mr. Softee didn’t come to my block very often. He was the Cadillac of ice cream trucks and we were more of a Buick neighborhood. The Good Humor Man came around, though, and in the words of Martha Stewart, that was a very good thing. I could always scrounge enough change for a chocolate éclair, strawberry shortcake or toasted almond bar.

good humor ice cream

At some point in my childhood, my brother’s friend, Bobby, began driving an ice cream truck. This was great for several reasons:

  • My mother felt compelled to support Bobby once or twice a week; The Good Humor Man was not one of her causes
  • Bobby would tell us, “I’ll come by around 7 or 8,” so I didn’t have to take ice cream orders from my entire family and scour the neighborhood, following the chiming bell like a demented Pavlov’s dog.
  • He sold soda! Chips! Candy! So if I’d already had ice cream or felt like something else, I wasn’t automatically left out

Bobby’s ice cream truck was like a rolling party. You knew that when he and his girlfriend showed up, music would be blasting and there would be lots of laughs. Plus…ice cream! What could be better?

Even Bobby’s mother wasn’t sadder than me when Bobby rang his bell for the last time and went off to college. I missed our standing 7 or 8 pm date, and was sorry to be back on my bike, riding all over Queens in search of the ice cream man.

After another long winter, filled with a massive hurricane, a Nor’easter, and a blizzard, my ears immediately perked up when I heard the clearest sound of Summer: the clanging bells of the ice cream man.

Oh Mr. Ice Cream Man! How I've missed you!

Oh Mr. Ice Cream Man! How I’ve missed you!

Like those love scenes where you see two people rushing towards each other, arms outstretched, I raced out my front door towards the sound, ready to embrace my ice cream man and welcome him back. I hoped I wasn’t going to cry.

But then…it wasn’t my ice cream man. It was a different truck. It was Mr. Softee!

Oh, beloved giver of ice cream in my youth, what were you doing on my block?

For years now, we had been buying our ice cream from Larry, the ice cream man whose low-rent truck reminded me of Bobby’s from so long ago.

I felt conflicted. If I bought ice cream from Mr. Softee, wasn’t I violating some kind of pact I’d entered into with Larry, “my” ice cream man? Wouldn’t this betrayal make Mr. Softee more likely to come back, thereby increasing the likelihood that I’d stray again?

But then, the one bit of information I actually retained from my Economics class taught by Mr. McCullough back in high school occurred to me. In a Free Market Economy, isn’t it important to foster competition while supporting ALL of your local business owners?

About 30 seconds later, I was munching on a candy crunch bar from my old pal, Mr. Softee. The next day, when Larry came ringing his bells, I bought some ice cream from him too.

It sure beats riding my bike around the neighborhood, searching for either of them.

Recipe:

Okay, so I don’t eat as much ice cream as I once did. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like a delicious frozen treat every once in awhile. Here are a bunch of recipes for Sorbet that may inspire you to make something light and delicious at home. No scouring the neighborhood for Mr. Good Humor required.

chocolate sorbet

http://www.cookinglight.com/food/in-season/sorbet-recipes-00412000067377/

So Hungry Lifers…do you have a thing for your ice cream man? What’s your favorite ice cream treat? Do you remember Korvette’s or Bang Bang? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!