Tales From A Hungry Life

May 9, 2017

The Seven Year Itch Blog Post

by Maria Schulz

It’s been a while. As usual, life has gotten in the way and I haven’t been writing as much as I would like—or at all. I wanted to write a blog post but inspiration just didn’t come a’callin. My blog is a lot like a romantic relationship: it requires care and feeding, but I just wasn’t in the mood. However, I knew I needed it and it needed me, so I logged on. This message was waiting for me:

 

ACHIEVEMENT

Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com!

You registered on WordPress.com 7 years ago.

Thanks for flying with us. Keep up the good blogging.

I was torn between being really touched, and being kind of horrified. I FORGOT MY BLOG’S ANNIVERSARY!!! Anyone who has ever walked through the door on anniversary night without flowers, candy, or diamonds knows what I’m feeling right now. I neglected my blog! I couldn’t even remember our stinkin’ anniversary! What kind of monster am I?

Yes, 7 years ago I started this blog relationship, not expecting to have anyone read anything I wrote. That made me sad and kind of glad too. Yes, I wanted people to read my writing, but no…I didn’t want anyone to ever read my writing.

It’s scary out there

Writing in this public way is exhilarating and terrifying. It’s a thrill to have people read and comment on something that I’ve created. But it’s also like standing in Macy’s window during the holidays wearing nothing but tinsel. You can’t help but feel exposed.

Forgetting my blogging anniversary made me feel sad. There was a time when I couldn’t get enough of posting and sharing. Everything was new and exciting. I had a forum for my family stories! I was getting laughs when I told stories about my relatives! I could give Valentine’s tips or make fun of the Twilight movies—often at the SAME TIME! Blogging was something I couldn’t wait to do.

Are you a vampire?

But then…the years rolled by. My blog got kind of flabby. He wasn’t the same as he was seven years ago. I could hear Bloggy giving me pep talks, saying things like: “Did you blog today?” “The key to writing is to just show up!” and “You’re letting your readers down!” He always wanted me to do my best and honestly, he was something of a nag. He was starting to get on my nerves. Sometimes being with him was immensely gratifying. Other times, the responsibility of keeping him fed and happy drove me crazy. Plus, deep down I was always afraid that I would bomb on the blogging stage.

I searched “people who bombed on stage” and this is the image that came up

I still enjoy writing blog posts and sharing stories, but the blog has become like that old, reliable love interest that you know will still be there when you feel like showing up. I even started this blog post a month ago and then put it aside. Bloggy could wait. I had other challenges to attend to.

What a nag

While he was sitting waiting patiently for my return, I started to think about how glad I am that I started this blog in 2010. It helped me grow in confidence and vision. Here are all the things that blogging has helped me achieve over the past 7 years:

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for

  • Telling my family stories helped me finally complete my first book, Tales From A Hungry Life: A Memoir With Recipes. I got congrats from folks as far away as Ireland who said they enjoyed my book. I even got fan mail!
  • My readers liked the first book so much that they asked for a second. So, I’m currently writing Hungry Lifer: More Tales. More Stories. More Fun. I’m hopeful that I’ll have a cover to share soon, and that I’ll have the entire book published in time for a reading in August.
  • I have written 206 posts on everything and anything: my family, my friends, Catholic school, teachers, books, pets, dead celebrities, an author book reading, the cast for the movie/broadway show/television sitcom for Tales From A Hungry Life, and lots more

I could’ve just gone on social media and started writing 140 word posts and gotten a ton of likes for stories distilled into fragments. But it wouldn’t have been the same.Here’s the thing: I miss my blog. Sure, Bloggy isn’t the new and exciting love that he was in 2010. But like anyone in a long-term relationship can tell you, there are perks to riding out the tough times and hanging in there.

I love writing, and my blog gave me a safe place to do just that. It taught me how to stand up and tell my stories with confidence. It proved to me that writing was my gift, and I should share it with the world.

Keep up the pep talks, Bloggy

One of my old high school English teachers once said to me, “Who do you think you are? Emily Dickinson? Stop putting your work under the bed to gather dust. Show it to the world!”

Okay, so it took me about 3 decades to follow his advice. At times, I’m more like Angie Dickinson than Emily. My blog gave me the courage to talk about my writing, and for that I will forever be grateful. My blog gave me an avenue for expression that I never had before. So here I am again, recommitted (and possibly in need of being committed).

Buckle up, readers. This may be a bumpy ride.

Recipe: Chicken Enchiladas

Yum!

This recipe is from Chef Katie Workman and the good people at City Meals on Wheels. I remember City Meals on Wheels fondly because they kept my grandmother nourished and cared for in her old age. Plus, Chef Workman says this is a dish that makes people happy, so sign me up.

So, Hungry Lifers: what makes you happy? Do you have any blog post ideas for me? Which recipe is your go-to comfort choice? Please leave a response and let us know.

Thanks for 7 really wonderful years. Bloggy and I will keep plugging away, for better or worse.

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April 6, 2016

Happy 6th Anniversary to Me

by Maria Schulz

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but my blog and I are celebrating 6 years together.

wish_us_a_happy_6th_anniversary_throw_pillow

When I wrote my very first blog, I had the paralyzing fear that my words would be read by NOBODY. Or, even worse yet…EVERYBODY. I wasn’t sure anyone would be the least bit interested in what I had to say, but I hit “publish” anyway. You know what? Nobody didn’t show. Neither did Everybody. But Somebody came regularly.

Once I wrote that first blog post, the words just came tumbling out. I found that it was a thrill writing something that people actually read and commented on. Some comments I could live without, but most comments showed that I was not, in fact, shouting down a big black well. I spoke, and someone heard me. How cool is that?

The Flying Nun

You like me! You really like me!

Over the last six years, I’ve covered a wide range of topics that let me talk about everything from the sweet and sentimental to the serious and zany. These include:

My Book Reading

TFAHL-Book-Reading

Extra! Extra! Read all about it

What I Learned in Catholic School

Cartoons

What it takes to live 100+ years

Multiple Choice Tests for Parents

James Garner

JamesGarner

What a smile

My grandmother’s house and eggs in a basket 

Must-Read Books

Marriage

The Dead Celeb Blog

The Trouble With Girls

#distractinglysexy

You’ve got to laugh

My book: Tales From a Hungry Life: A Memoir with Recipes

Tales From A Hungry Life A Memoir with Recipes cover

Now available on amazon.com

In some ways, my blog has been like a partner in a long-term relationship. There were the early days, when I just couldn’t wait to see it again. There was a rush whenever I sat down to write, because everything was new and there was so much to learn about each other.

Bloggie and I saw each other as much as we could. Sometimes, I couldn’t wait to post again. There would be two posts in a week! Eight posts in a month! There could never be enough time spent in each other’s company.

couple running towards each other

At last

Now, six years later, things have changed. Oh, I still love my blog…but if I post once every six weeks, that’s okay too. The early rush I had from sitting down and posting something has faded. I think my blog senses it too.

So, now that I’m in my sixth year…and the seven-year-itch is just one anniversary away…I’m rededicating myself to my blog. For awhile, I would post every Wednesday like a religion. But life, work, and sheer exhaustion took over.

student sleeping at desk

Too tired to blog

There have been times that I also wondered if anyone would really care if this blog just stopped showing up. Who needs to know what I think of marriage? Holidays? School tests? Crazy kids? Scary movies? Books? Bike riding? James Garner? (but that’s just silly. Who doesn’t want to hear about James Garner?)

GREATGARNER[1]

Awwww…Jimmy

I’m not going to renew my vows with my blog. That would be so Hollywood, and besides, every celebrity couple that does that ends up divorced within a year. No, instead, I’ll make a promise to myself to write more, read more, and build up my blogging relationship again. It’s one that’s made me happy over the years, and I still think it’s worth the effort.

Besides, it’s gotten me in touch with so many wonderful people. Old friends and new friends, people just passing by and others in it for the long haul. I’m grateful to all of you, and hope that my blog and I can keep making your days a little bit more amusing in the years to come.

In the meantime…does anyone have any ideas for what I can write about next week?

Recipe:

7 Days of Super Healthy Dinners

Grapefruit-and-Avocado-Salad-Seared-Salmon-XL

Besides trying to write my blog, create new chapters for Book #2, work a full-time job, exercise, be a parent and spouse, and strive for world peace, I’ve set out to eat better. These 7 meals seem like a good addition to my routine, which is already starting to get old. There are just so many ways you can eat greens before you go stark raving mad and head screaming out the door to White Castle for a sack o’20 murder burgers, a big thick chocolate shake, onion rings, and enough French fries to choke a horse.

White_Castle_meal

You like me! You really like me!

So, Hungry Lifers…what are your suggestions for keeping the passion alive in your hobbies? Do you have any ideas for future blog posts you’d like me to tackle? No, really…any ideas? Please leave a comment and let us all know. My blog and I thank you!

May 13, 2015

Inspired and Amused

by Maria Schulz

Sometimes, it’s hard to be inspired enough to do the things you love to do. Take writing, for instance. There’s nothing I enjoy more than sitting down to write a new story, blog post, or even a letter to a friend. But there’s also nothing more frustrating than finding your inspiration tank on empty, and no matter how hard you crank that ol’ engine, it just doesn’t start.

When I get to this point, I try different ways to jump start my creativity:

1. Read the Entertainment section of the newspaper. I usually find something funny or outrageous that riles me up and makes me want to write. Think The Kardashians, the Oscars, or Dancing With the Stars (as ridiculous as it may be, I still love Dancing With the Stars). Gwyneth Paltrow is always good for a laugh too, especially when she says things like how easy moms who work in an office have it compared to afflicted actresses like her who must work on a set. Sure! I know lots of office workers who get paid $10,000,000 per job.

Always inspires

Always inspires

2. Tap into pop culture. I tried to watch the Bruce Jenner special, but I started to feel like he was a guest I’d invited into my house, and now he’d overstayed his welcome. The show was too long! We were told the same thing about 700 times. I think it’s great that his family supports him. I find it surprising that Kris Jenner was NOT okay about his desire to change (think of the PR potential there!). My biggest gripe with the show was that it was dull. I think there must be lots of much more interesting individuals going through similar challenges out there that would love to talk about it.

writer's block

3. Read inspiring quotes. Lots of great authors have wrestled with this problem long before I started complaining about it. Mostly they say: park your butt in a chair and just start writing. So here I am. What do I do now?

exercise

4. Exercise. There’s nothing quite like walking around in the bright sunshine to make you feel better about the world in general. I let my dog choose our path (yes, I know: Cesar Milan would tell me that I am not being a true leader. Who cares? My dog has more imagination than his dogs). At the end of the walk, I’m happier, my dog is happier (and sleepy), and I can sit down to write.

How to be awesome...

How to be awesome…

5. Take a class. There are lots of web-based seminars and workshops that will help you get motivated and inspired, even if they inspire you differently than originally planned. I recently took a class online called something like “8 Great Traits of The Terrific, Talented, and Totally Awesome.” It started out with a story about a dog in a power suit who was apparently having a crisis of confidence and ended up by teaching me great nuggets of wisdom, including: Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Creative!, Go For It! , Don’t Stop Now, Embrace Your Focus, Your Creativity is a Fountain…Let it Flow, Reject the Naysayers, Make the Future Pay, Can an Ant Move a Rubber Tree Plant? and You Are Worth Loving! By the end, the dog was very confident, and I was laughing very hard. It left me inspired, amused, and wondering how I could get a job teaching courses like that. Thank goodness it was free.

Like this dog. Only in a suit.

Like this dog. Only in a suit.

6. Talk to your Kids. There are so many times that a simple conversation with my girls has given me an idea for a story or a blog post. Their take on gym class, crazy classmates, summer reading lists, and life in general takes me back to my own days in school, cracks me up, and inspires me. If you can’t remember something hilarious that happened in school when you were a kid, you just aren’t trying.

These kids playing dodge ball look way too happy

These kids playing dodge ball look way too happy

7. Cook. Making something delicious that my family enjoys is my quest, and it can be as simple as finding the Holy Grail. You’re never quite sure you’re going to succeed, but you feel compelled to keep searching. I have delighted and tormented my family with my cooking on many different occasions. My girls are still talking about the Eggplant Fontina Gratin dish I made years ago that they both hated with the intensity of a thousand blazing hot suns.

Hot, hot, hot

Hot, hot, hot

My husband, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed the Chicken Saltimbocca that I made one night after I tried it (and loved it) in an Italian restaurant in Manhattan. He keeps buying all of the ingredients, just in case I want to make it again. So really, it’s a win/win since I’m creating memories that will be cherished for a lifetime (my kids love making fun of my cooking).

 

Plus, when I cook, I find that ideas come to me about that story I’m writing, or I figure out how to fix the problems I’ve been having in a chapter, or even get an idea about what the cover of my next book should look like. So whether dinner is the bomb…literally…or a home run, I am inspired.

chicken saltimbocca

Recipe: Chicken Saltimbocca

Here’s that dish that my husband enjoyed so much. It’s very easy to make and it’s delicious too. Enjoy!

So, what inspires you? What helps you be creative when the old well runs dry? Which recipes are a hit–and which ones are a miss–with your family? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

April 22, 2015

National Poetry Month

by Maria Schulz

Celebrate!

Celebrate!

April is National Poetry Month. No…WAIT! Don’t run away. Poetry can be fun, and it can also make you think. I wasn’t always so sure about that, though. As a Creative Writing major, I had to take my fair share of poetry classes. Sometimes, there was no narcotic quite as strong as a Poetry professor who would drone on and on about stanzas, couplets, and haikus. Zzzzzzzzzz…oh sorry, I just fell asleep there.

But I was lucky. I was blessed with teachers who just knew how to capture my attention with masterful writing. To teachers everywhere: thank you for your creativity, sense of adventure, ability to laugh, and for helping me recognize the power of the written word.

So many words, so little time

So many words, so little time

In that spirit, I participated in an April Poetry Challenge a few years back. Every day, we received a challenge: write a poem in some particular form or free verse. Here are some of the challenges I had fun with or was inspired by. Ready? I hope you can stay awake with me. Let’s go:

Write a haiku and an anti-haiku poem:

Spring Haiku

Rain splashes flowers

Daffodils and tulips grow

The ground is bejeweled.

A fashion staple! NOT

A fashion staple! NOT

Anti-Haiku

The Catholic school

Girl in me hates uniforms

Or form-bound poems.
Write a poem about traveling:

It's just snow

Night Sweats

Every night, after work,

I look over my calendar

And wonder how I’m going to get

My girls from soccer to softball

Gymnastics to baskeball.

Photo night? Birthday parties?

Special Occasions? Playdates?

I go back to my own childhood

When my bicycle was my lifeline

My mother said, “be home at 5.”

I like my bicycle

I like my bicycle

I rode all over town,

Across the major road that was forbidden,

Because as long as I didn’t get hit,

They would never know.

I took myself to sports and parties,

Throwing balls and gifts into my flowered basket,

Best friend on the back of my banana seat,

We were mostly on time.

Hurry!

Hurry!

Now, I race from one place to another,

My girls screaming in the back seat.

No one rides their bikes anywhere anymore,

God forbid my children take that forbidden road!

I think of that mother in Westchester who dropped her kids

By the side of the road after 2 hours of constant fighting

And think that the prison cell must have been a nice change of pace.

Then I think of Susan Boyle, the Britain’s Got Talent sudden superstar,

Who has totally wrecked my chances of being a middle-aged,

Frumpy, bushy eye-browed singing sensation

(or at least the first of her kind).

These are the places I travel

While the kids are screaming

And we go from one game to another.

Write a poem about longing:

The early days

The early days

Longing

As I watch my girls blossom and grow

I think how nice it would have been

For them to get to know

My mother. How she would have shared secrets

with them, given them money when I refused,

Taken them places I neither had the time or desire to see.

Girly-girl that she was, her energies were wasted

On tom-boyish me.

But my girls would have delighted her,

Shared tea parties and boy stories,

Dressed in feather boas and beaded bonnets,

Enjoyed fashion shows at the mall.

Like her mother before her, my mother would have

Wiped away tears they would never show

Their poor old useless mother.

How is it that I became that old–and useless?

And how is it that

My mother, who never got the chance to be old,

Grows stronger and stronger in my memory,

My head filled with longing

For the mother and grandmother

That early-onset Alzheimer’s stole

Like a cassette tape

that’s been erased

From back to front.

Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad

Write a sestina:

What’s a sestina? I’m glad you asked:

  1. The sestina is composed of six stanzas of six lines (sixains), followed by a stanza of three lines (a tercet). There is no rhyme within the stanzas; instead the sestina is structured through a recurrent pattern of the words that end each line, a technique known as “lexical repetition”.

Sarita’s Sestina

When it came to laughter

Nothing could stop my mother

Like earth, wind, and fire

Laughter was an exciting boss

Who couldn’t stop piling on the work

And who, in the end, she grew to love.

Even when all seemed lost, there was love.

Mixed with tears and a hearty dose of laughter.

Dancing to wile away the time, always full of fire,

Keeping her hands busy with work

And laughing still, my giggling mother

Was so confused, believing the nurses were her bosses.

She thought, “you have to listen to your boss.”

And so she did, and she made them laugh

Tagging behind them on rounds and worrying about being fired.

Folding towels, pouring juice for other patients, work

Was her one true love

And it helped her get through those days when she called for her own mother.

“Where is my mother?”

She would say as soon as she was done working.

Fear would hide behind the laughter

As she folded faster, always watching for her boss.

The nurses grew to love

Sarita, the dancing patient full of fire.

“They wouldn’t dare to fire

Such a good worker. Not even my boss

Could help but fall in love

With me,” declared my mother.

Her unending devotion to work

Always made me laugh.

“You want to laugh?”

My mother said, her eyes sparkling and fiery.

“Here comes my boss.

Even though I forget, it’s me she loves!”

Mom dances and laughs; that’s my mother,

Taking her tragic denouement all in a day’s work.
Never bossy, always laughing.

Loving and dancing while she worked.

My mother made the most of her mind’s dying fire.

He likes it!

He likes it!

Don’t go yet! Just one more, to lighten the mood. Write a poem titled, “Never (fill in the blank):

Never Eat Pop Rocks and Coke

Never eat pop rocks and Coke

They will make your head explode!

It’s true! It’s a fact!

It’s what did in that kid, Mikey.

You know Mikey–

“He likes it! He likes it!

Hey Mikey!”

Of Life Cereal fame.

What a shame.

He had so much Life left in him.

RECIPE:

Homemade Pop Rocks

Get your homemade Pop Rocks here! Fizzy, fruity, and fabulous, that’s pop rocks for you. I’m happy to report that Mikey is, in fact, still alive and well, and probably enjoying Life cereal, pop rocks, and yes, even Cokes as we speak. This recipe looks like fun–try it and I hope you’ll like it, really like it!

So, have you ever written a poem? Did your eyes glaze over in poetry class, or did you have a favorite poet? What’s your favorite poem? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks again for reading and commenting.

April 8, 2015

Happy 5th Anniversary to Me

by Maria Schulz

Five years ago this April, I hit “publish” on my very first blog post. This was no small feat, since I had always been afraid to share my writing with the world at large. My high school English teachers were the first to point out that I had a knack for writing, but I didn’t always believe them. I ranked it right up there with my mother telling me I was beautiful. Who believes that?

My dad, uncle, and their friends from "the Hill," Queensborough Hill.

A photo from my very first post. My dad, uncle, and their friends from “the Hill,” Queensborough Hill.

 

Mr. Reines once told me: “Maria, you’re a writer! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” Mr. Brodsky was a bit more blunt:  “Damn it, Maria, you’re not Emily Dickinson. Stop putting your stuff under the bed. Get it out there!” It only took me a few decades to follow his advice, but I’m glad I finally did.

I’ll admit it, there have been times when the old fear creeps in and I feel paralyzed. What if no one likes it? What if no one (gasp) laughs? What if I send this blog post out there, and absolutely NOTHING HAPPENS? What if I expose myself as a MORON? What if no one buys my book? Will I be able to keep my sense of humor about it? Here are my answers to those burning and idiotic personal questions:

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

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

1. No one may like my blog post, but I’m probably sitting here laughing as I write it, so at least it helped bring down my blood pressure for a few minutes

2. Again, someone laughed–me! The rest is gravy

Maybe Super Grover could hold my book

Maybe Super Grover could hold my book

3. What exactly do I think is going to happen? I haven’t gotten my 5 minutes with Oprah yet (except in my imagination) and the Tales From A Hungry Life balloon hasn’t gone live at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade either, but I’ve gotten lots of fun comments from people that are always hilarious and inspiring. So it’s all good.

4. I’m a writer. It would be moronic NOT to have opinions, ideas, or thoughts that I wanted to share. Yes, people have sent me mean comments and said my writing made them want to drink. Those words stung…but then I realized, maybe those comments were more about them then they were about me.

Now available on amazon.com

Now available on amazon.com

5. My book has been more successful than I had ever imagined, and I have my “platform” to thank for that. Platform is the word writers use to describe their social media presence. It reminds me of when I was in London some years ago and crazy people stood up on platforms and shouted out their ideas on a whole range of subjects in the public square. Yes, that describes my blog pretty well.

6. My sense of humor is still intact, thank you. It’s kind of like a very good friend that I keep by my side to cheer me on when I’m afraid that I can’t continue. It’s also nourished by my real (and not imaginary) friends who drop off gifts of crumb cake after I’ve posted something (Yes, Paula, I mean you).

I never thought I would still be blogging 5 years later. It’s not that I didn’t have something to say…it’s just that I wasn’t sure anyone would respond. For once, I’m happy to be wrong about something. This blog has been the place that I could write about things that meant something to me, and discover that I was not alone.

This cover still cracks me up

This cover still cracks me up

 

This is the place where I can write about the past–beloved pets, teachers, friends, and family. I can share the hilarious stories about my brothers (who are the best comedians I’ve ever known) and my well-meaning but very human parents. I could write about celebrities that I admired and those that passed on–Joan Rivers, Robin Williams, and of course, James Garner.  I could also write about the present: movies I love, life as a Mom, PTA shenanigans, growing pains with my kids, love and laughter with my husband.

Always a great escape

Always a great escape

Over the past 5 years, I have experienced a kind of creative freedom that you can’t get just anywhere. When I post, I’m the boss: what I say goes. Of course, that doesn’t stop my boss from sometimes being critical and editing everything I do (what can I say, I’m a pain), but it’s made me a more committed and dedicated writer. I completed my first book, wrote a short story that was included in another book, and have started on my second book, and all of it happened because this blog gave me the confidence to work towards those dreams.

My story is in this book!

My story is in this book!

I’ve nurtured my blog through the early days when I wasn’t sure what I was doing and I’ve grown in confidence. If my blog was a child, it would be ready to go off to Kindergarten right about now. There are lots of fun days ahead. I’ll try to enjoy them, because the teen years are right around the corner.

Thanks to everyone who reads, comments, and shares my blog. I’m looking forward to the next five years and all of the new challenges and adventures that blogging will bring. As my niece Katie says, “this is going to be fun!”

As for you, Mr. Brodsky: I still have plenty of stuff piled under that bed. Thanks for encouraging me to share it with the world.

RECIPES:

buttery crumb cake

Crumb Cake

This recipe is outrageously buttery, but that’s what makes it good. Imagine my delight when my pal, Paula, dropped off a hunk of crumb cake for me one morning after she read that week’s blog post. If this is what fan mail is all about, I’m in.

100 Healthy Dessert Ideas

For those of you who need to satisfy your sweet tooth but want to go light, here are 100 healthy ideas from Cooking Light. These good-for-you treats include bourbon-glazed peaches with yogurt, blackberry merlot granita, carrot cake, and many more delicious options.

So, Hungry Lifers: have you ever done something outside of your comfort zone? Did it take you several decades to do it? What’s your favorite dessert recipe–either so bad it’s good or tastes great/good for you too? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

January 2, 2015

New Year’s and The Secret to A Happy Life

by Maria Schulz

Another holiday season is behind us. The days aren’t so much merry and bright as they are bare and gray. It’s the New Year, and that makes me think about all I want to accomplish in the next 12 months.

What will I accomplish in 2015?

What will I accomplish in 2015?

The earliest days of January always fill me with a mixture of boredom, anticipation, anxiety, and hope. Maybe this year, I will become a better person, write more books, sell more copies of the one I already have out there, be kinder, get fit, lose weight, or even finish reading November 22, 1963 by Stephen King.

As I searched the Internet for ways to become a better person this New Year, I came across an article called “The Secrets to A Happy Life—Courtesy of Tolstoy.” In this very inspiring article, the author explains how, through Tolstoy’s example, we can keep an open mind, become more empathetic, make a difference, learn new things, and accept others.

Not her.

Not her.

I enjoyed War and Peace and Anna Karenina, but I realize that some readers’ eyes may glaze over by the things that excite an English major like me. So, I tried to think of someone a little bit more current. Someone who was a good sport, fought fair, and tried his or her very best. Someone whose worldview I admired, appreciated, and embraced. They didn’t have to be real…just real to me.

Therefore, I’m going to put forth my own:

Secrets to A Happy Life—Courtesy of Jim Rockford

What a smile

What a smile

1. Keep Smiling. Sure it’s hard to smile at everyone, especially when you suspect that they’re stupid, insane, or bent on killing you. But a smile is always your best bet, because the people who like you will be more willing to forgive your mistakes. And the ones who don’t will spend so much time trying to figure out what you’re smiling about that you’ll have the extra time you need to get away from them.

2. Accept Your Friends’ Character Quirks. Angel wasn’t exactly the best friend Jim could’ve hoped for, but he certainly did make life interesting. Yes, he was the reason that Jim often got shot at, beaten up, or found by the bad guys, but he also unwittingly helped Jim solve a case or two. So you’ve got to take the good with the bad.

3. Keep an Open Mind. Beggars can’t be choosers, and it’s not every day that someone comes through the door willing to pay $200 a day, plus expenses. So when opportunity comes a knockin’, you’d better open that door.

Rockford Files ad

4. Expand Your Social Circle: it’s important to have family and friends to get you through the rough times, but it pays to meet new people. Sometimes Jim’s escapades let him play at being an Oklahoma millionaire or even to hob knob with rich folk played by Lauren Bacall. So go on…get out there!

5. Practice Empathy. When his friend, Rita Capkovic (played by Rita Moreno) gets beaten up by her pimp, Jim takes her into his trailer and nurses her back to health. Yeah, sure, this ends up causing her to fall in love with him and drive him crazy, but still. Empathy is good.

6. Live the Simple Life. Jimbo lived in a trailer! He’d rather go fishing with his dad, Rocky, than work! He didn’t obsess over the many debtors that called and left messages on his answering machine! His favorite foods were Oreos, tacos, and steak, with a beer chaser! He lived life on his terms, and I love that.

I still want to meet Jim and Rocky

I still want to meet Jim and Rocky

7. Beware Your Contradictions. While Jim may have preferred the simple life of fishing and loafing off, he also liked things like gold Pontiac Firebirds, dinner with a pretty girl every now and again, and loud sports jackets. Did he begrudge himself these things? Nope. He embraced it all. That’s my boy.

8. Never Take Sides Against the Family: Sure, Rocky drove Jim crazy. Whenever he heard what Jimmy was up to, he tried to talk him into “getting a real job,” or “staying out of prison.” Others may have found Rocky annoying, but no one said so to Jim, since he inherently understood that his father always had his back.

9. Always Keep It Real. Jim Rockford never put on airs; you knew where you stood with good ol’ Jimmy. Wouldn’t it be great if you could say the same thing about all of the people in your life?

Rockford_files

10. When in Doubt, Run. Perhaps Jim’s best character trait was his ardent desire NOT to be shot, manhandled, punched in the head, or beaten to a bloody pulp. He was the anti-hero’s hero at a time when detectives like Mannix showed their masculinity by being left for dead in the gutter. Sure, a punch or two always seemed to hit the mark, but if Jim could disappear at the first sign of trouble, he was out of there. Now that’s my kind of hero.

Recipes:

Hmmm hmmm good

Hmmm hmmm good

Chile-Spiced Skirt Steak Tacos: delicious, and a great way to combine two of Jimmy’s favorite things (you don’t even have to visit his favorite restaurant, Casa Taco):

Oreos! Make ‘em at home using this recipe.

Food Network's homemade Oreos

Food Network’s homemade Oreos

I would give you a recipe for home-brewing your own beer, but that’s WAY too swanky for Jim Rockford (not to mention, me). Remember to ask yourself: WWJD (What Would Jimbo Do?) Keep it simple—pop open a can of your favorite, just like Jimmy would.

For those of you who are wondering, I was inspired to write this post because  James Garner was on all of the “Celebrities We Lost in 2014” lists, and it made me a little bit sad. So here’s a fun way to celebrate him again.

Awwww...Jimmy

Awwww…Jimmy

So, Hungry Lifers…what are your hopes for the New Year? Which TV show would you base your Secrets to a Happy Life on? Do you like spicy tacos, oreos, and beer chasers? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks, and Happy New Year!

December 18, 2014

My Author Visit

by Maria Schulz

 

Now available on amazon.com

Now available on amazon.com

Did you ever get to do something you’d always dreamed of doing? No, I didn’t climb Mount Everest (too cold and too dangerous…I fall a lot), or win the Noble Peace Prize (I could never beat out someone like Mother Theresa), or even do a cooking show on the Food Network (if I was on Throwdown with Bobby Flay, I might get so excited that I’d set the kitchen on fire). For me, that dream was publishing my book and having a book reading.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it

Extra! Extra! Read all about it

On TV or in the movies, the author walks into a packed room and the crowd bursts into applause. Everyone adores the author and wants to buy eight million copies of his or her books. The author spends the night feverishly signing books until his/her hand almost falls off. Then he/she walks away a millionaire, back to his/her loft in Brooklyn.

Don't all authors look like this?

Don’t all authors look like this?

What would my author visit be like? What if NO ONE SHOWED UP? Hold on though…it’s a book about my family! Of course they would show up. But…would anyone else? What if strangers came, and they DIDN’T LAUGH…or what if they threw tomatoes at me?

It's scary out there

It’s scary out there

I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be when the day finally arrived. And then…it began to snow. My phone started buzzing with regrets, and I worried that my worst fears would come true.

“It’s such a terrible night outside,” the library coordinator, Beth, said to me when we arrived. “You’ll be lucky if a couple of people show up, or if you even sell 3 or 4 books.”

Such a troublemaker

Such a troublemaker

My daughter and I went back out to the car to put the extra box of books away.

“You’ll sell more than 4 books!” Paige said.

“Thanks,” I replied, although I wasn’t so sure.

We went back inside and saw my Catholic school friend and her daughter standing at the door.

“Michele! Thank you for coming!”

“I wouldn’t miss it!” she replied, as she introduced her daughter, Emily, to me.

Seeing them made me feel so much better. Up to that point, I felt like a girl standing alone at a party, waiting for someone to ask for a dance. But now, at least 2 people were there, and they wanted to “dance” with me!

Please please please

Please please please

My husband and daughters stood with me, greeting people as they arrived. Friends from all walks of my life came through the door, including the wife of my 9th grade English teacher (who took a train and then had her friend drive her all the way to the library just so they could be there); work pals (including Grace, my wonderful book designer); friends from the neighborhood (my book club, religion classes, bowling buddies, and my husband’s best friends); and of course, my father, brothers, sisters-in-law, nephew, niece, and cousin Tom, who got stuck in rush hour traffic for four hours! What was even more amazing was that people I didn’t even know came in, smiling and eager to hear about my book. I felt like George Constanza from Seinfeld. Yes, the worlds were colliding!

The worlds are colliding!

Jerry, the worlds are colliding!

At 7:30 p.m,, Beth introduced me. I thanked my husband, girls, family and friends for always supporting me. I also thanked the people who didn’t know me at all for coming on such a snowy night. Then, I said:

“I started writing Tales From A Hungry Life ten years ago to capture all the memories that I shared with my family as the only sister living with 6 brothers. I wrote it after reading memoirs like The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. I enjoyed them but I thought: these people are crazy, and not in a good way. I wanted to read about a family that was crazy in a good way…so I wrote about my family. Of course I also included recipes, because food was always a big part of our lives.”

Dad gets into it

Dad gets into it

When I was done talking about my book, I invited my cousin Tom, my brothers Chris, Jude, Lou, and Joe, and my father, Lou, up to the stage with me. We each took the scripts I’d prepared and sat down on the edge of the stage as we started to read from my book.

Tommy, Chris, Jude & me

Everyone gets ready for their star moment

We read about my Uncle Don and his hilarious way of facing life’s pitfalls. We read about our childhood pets, Goldie and Henry. We even read about our mother, and how she always had her favorites. The crowd laughed in all the right places; sometimes, it was the 7 of us up on stage that started laughing. My father jumped up and acted his heart out as he relived certain moments. The crowd was laughing! They were enjoying it! No one threw tomatoes (I was wearing red, just in case) or booed.

Let's read

Let’s read

When it came to the Q&A part, I passed the mic around. We all answered questions about the book, which stories my brothers thought hit the mark, what was missing, and what I should include in the next book. We even sent the microphone into the crowd so my brother Tony could answer a question too. Then, Jude said:

“Even though this book is about Maria’s life, it gets you thinking about your own childhood. While you’re laughing at her memories, you’re enjoying your own. That’s the best part of it.”

At the end of the evening, I got to sign dozens of books and thank a very enthusiastic, happy crowd. I was fortunate enough to have over 50 people show up, I signed books until I thought my hand would fall off, and we sold 26 copies.

I may not have a loft in Brooklyn, but as my grandmother would have said, I’m a millionaire without a million..

Recipe: Fresh Tomato Recipes

tomato-stack-salad

Because tomatoes are for eating, not for throwing! Try this tomato stack and you’ll agree that tomatoes are great year-round.

So Hungry Lifers…did you ever get to do something you always dreamed about? Have you read my book yet? Thanks to everyone who came out on that snowy night and to those who were there in spirit. Let’s do it again real soon!

May 21, 2014

The Pursuit of Art

by Maria Schulz

The other day, I was sitting at my desk when I overheard a conversation between two co-workers. They were discussing the author, Stephanie Meyer, and her Twilight series.

Are you a vampire?

Are you a vampire?

Neither of them were big fans, so they were talking about what a stupid story line the books had, how ridiculous they seemed, the fact that all that glitters is not vampires, and more. This lead one of them to finally ask:

“If you could write a series of novels that made you MILLIONS, but they would be ridiculed and mocked by many…WOULD YOU DO IT?”

I immediately jumped out of my chair and said, “I’M IN!”

Another writer chimed in, “Me too. I’m too old for art!”

The fact is, I’ve lived in penniless obscurity for way too long. Bring on the book tours! Bring on the movie offers! Let me hold GIANT royalty checks in my hot little hands!

 

A great thinker

A great thinker

Please, please dear God, let me argue with the movie producers over casting choices. George Clooney or Jon Hamm? Sandra Bullock or Cate Blanchett? If Robert Pattinson says he absolutely refuses to play the lead in my movie if Kristin Stewart is cast as the leading lady, sorry babe—but you’re out. Oh, I can’t wait until all of Hollywood is fighting to get a part in my book-turned-movie.

Just wait until the Academy Awards! I’ll get my own stylist and wear a stunning red dress by Prada that makes me look 100 pounds lighter as I sashay down the red carpet. Joan Rivers will try to make fun of me and I will come back with a witty remark on the spot (instead of the next day, while I’m crying in my Chunky Monkey ice cream) that will simultaneously cut her to bits and make her my BFF. Every reporter there will say things like: “Writers don’t usually get invited to these things, but that’s MARIA SCHULZ!”

Take me home

Take me home

Oh, but there I go again. Dreamers gonna dream.

The writer’s life can be frustrating. You spend years in college learning how to write, reading the classics, and contemplating the world’s beauty and all of its compelling ideas. Then you graduate…and you learn that the workplace doesn’t care about the classics (Homer? You mean Homer Simpson?), or that you were President of the Great Reads Society. So what if you are a creative problem solver and big thinker? What were your grades in Math and Science?

You go out there and search, search, search for any job that will let you write. In the process, you get a lot of jobs that teach you the joys of filing and typing.

D'oh

D’oh

When you go to cocktail parties, people first ask, “What did you major in?’ and later the question will change to, “What do you do?” When you answer, “English,” or “I’m a writer,” they look like they’ve got GI distress. Most people will let it just pass, like gas pains. But some people will ultimately say:

“What? Why be a writer? You’ll never get a decent job!”

But to a writer like me, you might as well say: “Why do you keep breathing?”

This kind of interaction happens early and often, until you can’t imagine writing like Dorothy Parker or Ernest Hemingway. Why not settle for Stephanie Meyer or E.L. James (Fifty Shades of Grey)? Why not take the BIG money, trips to Cannes, share cocktails with Robert Redford at the Sundance Film Festival, and score millions of dollars when your characters become immortalized as Barbie dolls?

I can see myself now: absorbing all the criticism, playing with my new Barbie dolls, and happily cashing the checks.

Let's play

Let’s play

I did learn a long time ago that “success” as defined by others isn’t really what drives me. It’s the need to create that drives artistic types forward, even when criticism is probably waiting on the other side. That fundamental need is something I live with, and something I noticed in my mother when she was afflicted with Alzheimer’s.

To keep Mom busy, we signed her up for an Alzheimer’s program that let her pal around with others who were in the same boat. They sat in a circle and: talked about current events (always heartbreaking, since these once bright, intelligent people couldn’t remember any president past Ronald Reagan), their favorite TV shows (The Golden Girls was always the right answer), and ate a snack of cookies and milk. The day was long but enjoyable, in my mother’s words, because no one would get angry with her for forgetting anything since they were just like her.

photo-64

By far, my mother’s favorite activity was arts and crafts. Most of the projects that she attempted were not good. It takes a certain amount of skill to throw a vase, pitcher, or statue, fire it up, and then paint it.

But somehow, even though my mother couldn’t remember who we were all the time, or who she was some times, she always remembered the artistic streak that lived inside of her. That streak drove her to create little treasures that she would bring home for us.

photo 2

I still have the blue vase she made, as well as the white milk jug with the blue and green polka dots. My daughter has a blue glass slipper and some statues of a little boy and a little girl who, when placed right next to each other, look like they’re kissing.

When Mom first brought those treasures home, I hated them. At that moment, I looked at them as examples of how far she had fallen. But my mother, in her Alzheimer’s wisdom, saw it as an expression of what she could still do, and not an expression of all that she never would.

photo 1

I can still learn a lot from her.

Recipes:

Pasta Primavera

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/pasta-primavera-recipe.html

 

Delicious

Delicious

Spring is a time of hope, and this recipe is just the fuel you need to keep those creative juices flowing.

So Hungry Lifers…is cashing in on your dreams a sell-out? Would you be IN? What’s your favorite springtime recipe? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks.

April 29, 2014

A Kind of Mad Courage

by Maria Schulz

Here’s some exciting news: a story of mine was included in a Mother’s Day anthology! The book is called “A Kind of Mad Courage” and it features short stories about every age and stage of motherhood, written by 19 different authors.

Coming soon!

Coming soon!

The stories in this collection range from laugh-out-loud funny to harrowing and everything in between. There’s something here for everyone: from stories of birth, to the toddler years, to those crazy teen years and beyond. All of these moms face incredible difficulties while still trying to be their kids’ first and best teachers. Like any mother can tell you, “motherhood isn’t for sissies.” As you read these wonderful stories, you’ll definitely get a sense of why that’s so true.

All of the proceeds from the sale of this book go to the  Guthy-Jackson Charitable Foundation, an organization that helps people facing the many trials of living with Auto-Immune diseases.

The mission from our editor was this: write a 5,000 — 10,000 word fictional story about motherhood in less than six weeks. Since I love a good writing challenge, I was in. I feel very fortunate to have been included with this group of talented authors.

Please check out this amazing short story collection, which will be coming out soon. To find out more about the stories, contributors, or book, please go to:

http://akindofmadcourage.blogspot.com

Happy reading!

April 9, 2014

Let’s Eat, Part V

by Maria Schulz

I just got a virtual “toast” from WordPress.com to congratulate me on my blogging anniversary. Yes, that’s right—I’ve been blogging for 4 years! After all this time, what have I learned? Let’s see: I will never run out of things to say, maybe people will even care, and so what if someone doesn’t like it—4 out of 5 dentists recommend sugar free gum, and 4 out of 5 people will probably get a kick out of my blog. You can’t please everyone.

So what’s my favorite part of posting? It has to be the funny, thoughtful comments that people leave. Here are my favorite posts and comments from the past year.

My Book Is Published

Sure, I said I’d publish my book about a million times before it happened, but hey—I did it after all! My book, Tales From A Hungry Life: A Memoir With Recipes, hit the virtual shelves last December, and the response from my readers was overwhelming. This blog gave me the reach and platform I needed to help make that dream come true, so thank you. Look for the Print edition  coming soon.

Now available on amazon.com

Now available on amazon.com

“Congrats Maria! Will d/l when I get a chance. Can’t wait for the movie next! :)”

Comment by George

Ancient Chinese secret, huh?

Ancient Chinese secret, huh?

Ancient Advertising Secrets

Where’s the Beef? Ancient Chinese Secret. Calgon, Take Me Away! These are all anthems to my youth, an innocent time when “Ring Around The Collar” and buying “two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun” were the biggest issues in my life.

“I still think one of the most memorable was the Staples back to school ad when the father is skipping down the aisle with the song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” playing and the kids come trailing up behind looking miserable.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DComGO8JYo

Loved the ones you had in your article–trip down memory lane!”

Comment by Deborah Hehn Derby

Summer Vacation

Who knew that our one and only family trip, taken in our sweltering Buick Station Wagon, would finally be good for a laugh? Yes, being stuck in a car for hours on end with 9 other people can have its advantages, especially when you get a blog post out of it and 26 comments.

Hot, hot, hot

Hot, hot, hot

“That trip has scarred your family for life. It is so hard to get the men in the family to do anything. I guess they have post traumatic stress disorder and are fearful to make any vacation plans. I’ve heard this story several times but not with so much detail. I think you captured it beautifully. Here’s to making more joyful and memorable vacations! It’s up to your family to right the wrongs of the past!”

Comment by Kathleen Lagalante

Actually, I think it’s up to the in-laws (especially if you want to go anywhere).
Comment by talesfromahungrylife

But we all remember our times at home and the Bronx Zoo, the rides in our car to Bayville. Joey throwing up in the car and it turning our stomachs as we drove home in the heat and smell. Great times!!!
Comment by Bglou

Yeah, that was some inconvenience . I mean stuffing 7 kids, two or three adults in a sweaty ’71 Buick station wagon with no air conditioner or power windows I had some nerve puking. You were lucky none of us died of heat exhaustion.
 Comment by Joe

And that wasn’t the time I was referring to. But I did keep the windows open so the hot air could waft through my hair. And don’t ask, “What Hair?”!!!
Comment by BgLou

Yeah, Joey. That was pretty thoughtless of you.
Comment by talesfromahungrylife

11 Cool Summer Movies

The summer days of my youth included no air conditioning and lots of trips to the movies. “Help me, Obi Wan. You’re my only hope!” aren’t just words uttered in the Star Wars series that my children consider “boring” and filled with “terrible” special effects. They are a mantra for life! And of course, who can ever forget the line from Jaws: “We’re going to need a bigger boat…”

Still great.

Still great.

“We only had an air conditioner in the den and one in my parents bedroom. My mother always used to yell if someone left the den door all the way open. We had to leave it open a little bit just in case the phone rang. If not she would yell,”didn’t you girls hear the phone ring! I was standing outside Waldbaums in this heat calling over and over again!” Oops this is not about mothers yelling, maybe next Wednesday. I remember one hot night sleeping over my cousins and being told that baby powder cools you off when you are trying to sleep. By the way, it doesn’t. It just takes forever to come out of your hair.
Okay an Officer and a Gentleman was my favorite back then and of course Grease. Saw them both about 11 times. I think I just always wanted to be thin enough for a sailor to carry me and wouldn’t it be great to wear spandex pants while he was doing it.

But the top of my list will always be Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Can’t wait for next Wednesday!”

Comment by Suzanne Tavel

Welcome to the New School Year

How many ways can I get Robin Thicke, Miley Cyrus, the VMAs and Blurred Lines into a Standardized Test? Read it and see.

Pure poetry

Pure poetry

“Reading this blog brought back memories from hell regarding my older daughter’s twelve years of school. She was always last minute Lil and made it her parents fault for not being prepared. When all else failed she yelled, but I’m a kid and it’s your responsibility to make me do it. Now that she is 25 and in Graduate school she doesn’t say the same words but does blame everyone else for her lack of preparation. Thank God I have a thick skin!”

Comment by Tony Lagalante

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

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

Author? Yes, Author

To discuss my book in greater detail, I had Oprah “interview” me. It wasn’t as shocking as her interview with Lance Armstrong, but it was pretty good.

“What do you mean you’re not a marketer? Oprah just interviewed you. It doesn’t get bigger than that!”

Comment by lisasafran

This is gonna be fun

This is gonna be fun

Welcome to Catholic Schools Week

Ah, Catholic Schools Week. The activities! The fun! The shared moments! I’d love to go back in time and plan the events for my own Catholic School Week. Did you ever try Nun Pinata or Pin the Tail on the Monsignor? Read on…

“OMG! I had to slap my hand over my mouth to keep from laughing too loud here at work!”

Comment by wordimprovisor177 

Great movie

Great movie

My Fan Letter to James Garner

The Rockford Files, The Great Escape, Support Your Local Sheriff. How could you not love James Garner?

“Another reason why we’re friends…love, love, love James Garner.”

Comment by doreenmoran

Cheers!

Cheers!

Recipe:

Here are some champagne recipes to help you celebrate your next big event:

http://allrecipes.com/recipes/drinks/cocktails/champagne-drinks/

This one sounds good to me:

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Bellini-Meanie-Martini/Detail.aspx?evt19=1

So, Hungry Lifers…what’s your favorite post of mine from the last year? What would you like to have me write about this year? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

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