What’s Doin’? (Part 2)

November 14th, 2010 by Melina

How’s by you?

Hi People!

Yeah, I’ve been gone for a while, and won’t be back for another few weeks. But I thought I’d pop in to let you know what’s doin’ by me.

1. I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, G-d help me! Going for my fourth win in four years.

2. I recently finished revising (scratch that, re-re-re-revising) my NaNo 2007 novel and putting together the query and synopsis.

3. I’m blogging over at the RWA Chick Lit Chapter Blog, where I’m blathering on about NaNo, apps for romance writers, and my “Basement Divas.”

4. I’m dealing with Creature, who’s suddenly been diagnosed with severe allergies. Including, but not limited to, an allergy to – get this – human hair.

I so wish I was kidding. . .

Oh, by the way, it’s totally cool with me if you want to laugh about this. What else can you do?

Yeah, lucky him to live with a human who, thanks to her Greek DNA, is not exactly hair free and thus hypoallergenic. . .

And please remember, he’s my mother’s dog. No dog of mine would ever have such problems.

Anyway, when you’ve got a chance, drop me a line and let me know how’s by you.

Love ya, mean it!


Posted in Creature Feature, Mel the Brooklynite, NaNoWriMo, Writer Crazy | 2 Comments »

“My” Dog? What dog?

September 21st, 2010 by Melina

Oh, okay, you mean that dog. . .

People. I realized I’ve made a grave error. Somehow, I’ve led you to believe that I have a dog. I mean really, I should have known. Obviously, that picture of me holding that cocker spaniel and those other dog photos I’ve shared here on the blog and on Twitter and Facebook would cause anybody to draw that conclusion.

I feel awful.

But here’s the truth. I, personally, don’t have a dog. Yeah, whatever, so there’s the afore mentioned cocker spaniel who just happens to live in my apartment. I occasionally feed him and stuff, and if I’m in a really good mood I’ll indulge him in a riveting game of squeaky toy soccer.

He’s not my dog though. He’s my mother’s.

It’s true. There are two undeniable facts.

A) My mother chose him. I, personally, wanted his brother, who was a bundle of energy and love, and had a gorgeous black coat I wanted to bury my face in. But noooo. My mother wanted the “interesting” looking dog who seemed calmer. Hmph.

B) The dog, who shall remain nameless, loves my mother oodles more than he loves me. Don’t believe me? True story: Last July, my mother came to visit me, and was resting with the dog on my bed in front of my air conditioner. I walked in and he glared at me, then growled under his breath, and then barked. Clearly, I was intruding.

And let’s not forget about the hunger strike and front door vigil he staged when my mother had surgery.

For some reason, she loves him back! Have you seen his squeaky toy collection? He’s the envy of every freaking dog in Park Slope. My mother must have secret stock in Petco.

You know what else? They talk via speaker phone.

They’re tight. And that’s fine. They can have each other.

Because no dog of mine would have such chutzpah.

No dog of mine would ever steal tissues, or steal a from the recycling. Or steal an entire loaf of challah, eat almost all of it, and hide bits and pieces under my duvet and in his crate. Can you believe I caught him with his head under the blanket and his tush in the air? Who does he think he is, Jean Valjean? He sleeps on a feather pillow for crying out loud.

Speaking of feather pillows. . . No dog of mine would hog the bed the way he does. He’s 25 pounds and manages to take up 98 percent of the bed. One of these days, I’m going to wake up on the floor.

No 25 pound dog of mine would ever have the audacity to bark at a great dane. OMG the Napoleon complex!

No dog of mine would ever shimmy under the bed and unplug my computer from the world’s most hard to reach outlet, then go and pee behind my bedroom door before going into the living room to howl because a neighbor had the neve to unlock his front door. That’s just barbaric.

I could go on, and tell you about the time he moved a chair so he could climb onto my desk and steal a salad (do you know how hard it is to pick cranberries out of wicker?), or about the time he ate a five pound bag a kibble while I was at work, earning the money to pay for said kibble.

But you get the picture.

If I had a dog, it would be a real dog. Like a lab. Not this cartoon version of the species I live with. It would be loyal, and sweet, and love going fishing and stuff with The Lucky Mr. Mel.

It would bring me my slippers. Not eat them.

It would sleep at the foot of my bed and keep my feet warm. Not hog the pillows.

Anyway. Sorry I lied. It was completely unintentional.

Just remember – I, personally, don’t have a dog. My mother does.

P.S. Please don’t call the ASPCA until you’ve read this. Thanks.

Posted in Creature Feature | 7 Comments »

Chick Lit, aka The “Undead” Genre

September 19th, 2010 by Melina

People. We’re not talking about gum here.

I’m sharing this in honor of the launch of a new group blog I’m part of over at the Chick Lit Writers of the World site. We’re talking about the state of chick lit, and how the genre is SO not dead, so I thought it was only fair talk about why I write it.

Today, on a very special episode of “Mel Blogs:”

The personal, touching story of how I started writing chick lit.

I was supposed to be living in New York. I had been, for over two years, and at the time, Manhattan was the only place I could imagine living. The rest of the world had nothing for the twenty-seven year old, fresh out of grad school and ready to take the world by storm me.

But my heyday was over. The tiny studio I was cramped into (and by tiny I mean it basically had room for my twin bed, a desk, and me, and not enough room for the mice who liked to come visit) was losing its charm. My shiny, new degree from Columbia was proving about as useful to my job search as my certificates from camp. And I’d had surgery that hadn’t gone quite as smoothly as planned.

So I went back to California, back to my teaching job, with a principal the district must have found somewhere deep within the seventh layer of hell. There was no question that I was going back to New York at the end of the school year. Twenty-seven year olds aren’t supposed to live with their mothers and have the exact same job they had at the age of twenty-two. That year is one of my biggest regrets.

So one miserable, boring, stifling night I got in the car to take part in an activity that worried my mother sick. I “went driving.” She hated when I did that. Aimless driving, no purpose, in the dark. But off I went.

I ended up at Barnes and Noble, and suddenly, I just had to have a book with a pink cover. Something I could read in just a few sittings. Something to cheer me up.

And then I found it:

True Love (and Other Lies) by Whitney Gaskell.

It wasn’t pink, but it was close enough. And I devoured it, along with Pushing Thirty. It’s not surprising. Her books were about women going through the same things I was going through, and there was an adorable pug to boot.

This really wasn’t that long ago, but author Web sites were still pretty new. But Whitney Gaskell had a site listed in the back of her book. And she had a blog! She was the first author I ever emailed, and she’d always write back, especially to talk about dogs.

And then, soon after, she announced that she was going to be one of the Literary Chicks (sadly, their site is no longer up). I followed Whitney over to the first group blog I ever read, where I discovered other chick lit writers, including Alesia Holliday, Michelle Cunnah, Eileen Rendahl, Beth Kendrick and Lani Diane Rich.

I was there every single day, loving the feel and the voice of their posts, not to mention the wonderful community.

I went into mourning when they stopped blogging. But then I learned something about Lani. When one of her incredible projects, like the Literacy Chicks blog, ends, another starts soon after, and results in a large, close knit, supportive community.

And Lani’s next project was “Will Write for Wine,” a podcast about wine and writing. I wasn’t a wine drinker (then – ha!) or a writer, but hey, it was Lani, so I was there. She did the podcast with Samantha Graves aka CJ Barry (who writes science fiction and paranormal and is such a master storyteller – she’s one of the few authors who can pull me away from contemporary women’s fiction). I wrote about what happened in more detail here, but long story short, I listened to the first few episodes, thought, “Huh. This writing thing sounds cool.” And now, I’ve got three manuscripts under my belt.

All are romance, two of those would be considered chick lit.

The thing is, if I say the words “chick lit,” I get my hand slapped. I even tried to rewrite my first book to make it more of a romance, by my heart broke because although the romance was a huge part of the story, the story I was trying to tell was about the protagonist and how she was dealing with “adult onset growing pains,” just like I was.

My dream is that someday, people will ready my stories, identify with the characters and their struggles, feel a little less alone and come away with a sense of hope.

Now that I’m part of this group blog, I’ve pinpointed exactly what it is about chick lit that appeals to me. In our fist post, I wrote:

There was a time when chick lit was all about pink covers, lipstick, and shoes. In some cases, it still is, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I love that these days, a chick lit heroine can wear stilettos, bunny slippers or work boots. She may be the life of the party, or feel more at home curled up on her couch with her dog. She can work in an office or a national park. What makes her a heroine is her attitude, her strength, and that we laugh with her, cry with her and follow her through whatever type of journey she may be on.

Chick lit may be hard to sell these days. But it’s being read. And it’s still being written. There was a time when chick lit was all the rage, probably for the reasons I stated above.

I assure you. The genre isn’t dead.

And we over at Chick Lit Writers of the World are setting out to prove that.

Posted in NaNoWriMo, Writing Life | 3 Comments »


September 4th, 2010 by Melina

It’s that time again. . .

In just a few hours it’ll be time for Selichot. Which means a few things.

1. I’ll be up late. The service starts at midnight.

2. It’s almost Rosh Hashanah. Which means it’s almost Yom Kippur. And then Sukkot and its string of holidays. And then Simchat Torah. Yikes.

3. I’ll be hearing / singing some fantastic music.

Let’s chat about #3, shall we? I blogged about some of the music last year. So here’s a bit more, via Yoel Ben-Simhon. He used to be part of my synagogue, and I miss his music a lot.

There are actually several songs in this video, all having to do with forgiveness, which is the basic theme of tonight. Most are sung in the Moroccan style, which you know I adore. (Remember Ruth’s meatball recipe?)

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And I must say, the photos are pretty interesting. But my favorite part is hearing the dumbek (the percussion).

Well, here’s hoping that 5771 is a happy, healthy and peaceful year for all.

Happy New Year! / Shana Tovah! / !שנה טובה

Posted in Fun With YouTube, Holiday Fun | 3 Comments »

California Summer in Review

August 29th, 2010 by Melina

Part 2

(Click here for Part 1)

Wow. So you came back for even more California photos? I’m honored. Do I need to make you some Peet’s coffee or a frappe to wake you up?

Well, pull up a chair. . .

My mother and I really needed to get away, so we went on a trip to West Marin. More specifically, Inverness, Tomales Bay, Point Reyes Station, Marshall, and Point Reyes National Seashore:

And Wine Country is always a hit. Here’s Petaluma, Sonoma (including the mission) and the surrounding areas:

Berkeley. Where I was born. Sigh. What can I say about Berkeley? Someday I need to go around and take more pictures. (At least I got the view from the Campanile.) But in the meantime:

And last but not least, here some random photos from around the house. Can you tell I had fun in my mother’s kitchen?

Well. At least I get to come back in November for Thanksgiving and my mother’s 60th birthday.

See ya, California! Thanks for being so gorgeous and for keeping me so cool this summer!

Posted in California Dreamin' | 4 Comments »

California Summer in Review

August 29th, 2010 by Melina

Part 1

Wow. So it’s almost time to go back to NYC. I’m not ready. I’ve been knee deep in writer crazy that’s evolved into writer insanity. Combine that with the “teacher about to begin the school year” crazy and the “It’s going to be 90 degrees and there won’t be any fog and I’m going back to work nerves” and what you get is one super jittery Mel.

And for some reason, I’m feeling more attached to, and more proud of, the Bay Area than I ever have.

Hence, this post.

First up – remember the California Happy Cow post?

Well, behold some Happy Cows, real and otherwise:

I spent quite a bit of time in San Francisco. Check out the fog. Apparently, this has been the coldest Bay Area summer in 40 years.

Fog, sea lions, cable cars, Alcatraz, and a Full House Flashback:

One of my favorite spots on this earth (and Creature would agree with me on this) is Point Isabel, the best dog park in the country. It’s right on the bay. On a clear day, there is an absolutely perfect view of the city. And when you’re done walking the trail, you can relax at the “Sit and Stay Cafe” while your dog has a bath at “Mudpuppy’s Tub and Scrub.” And by the way, the food is totally gourmet. The white hot chocolate is to die for, and the lemonade is organic and served in a sustainable cup made of plant parts. Welcome to CA. . .

One of the best afternoons of this entire summer was spent wandering through Muir Woods. It was warm enough I could walk around in a t-shirt:

Thanks for looking! I’ll be back tomorrow with Part 2.

Posted in California Dreamin' | 2 Comments »

A Frappe? Please?

August 26th, 2010 by Melina

Part 2

So here I am, 90 pages away from finishing the last 90 pages of this nasty round of rewrites. And I’m falling asleep.

Remember how I wanted a frappe? Look what I found in my mother’s pantry:

Check this out:

Ah, yes! Bliss!

Posted in Recipes, Writing Life | 1 Comment »

A Frappe? Please?

August 23rd, 2010 by Melina

Really. Is that too much to ask?

So let’s be totally honest here. I’ve got issues with jealousy. As if that weren’t bad enough, the people I’m most jealous of are quite often imaginary. Yeah, remember that writer crazy phenomenon of which I spoke about not too long ago?

Well, lucky you, I’m having a writer crazy moment right at this very minute, and I’m bringing you along with me.

Here’s what’s happening.

I’m in the middle of revising a group of scenes that has tortured me for about two years. Simply put, they’re a hot mess. And no, they can’t be cut.

What’s worse is that in the middle of these scenes, my protagonist, Daphna, is learning how to make frappe. And she’s in Crete. This stings extra hard because right now, I’m supposed to be in the village I’m writing about. I was supposed to leave August 11th but I had to cancel my trip.

It’s not just that I’m spoiled and want a vacation. I miss my family and Greece itself so much it physically hurts.

Also, it’s 91 degrees in the Bay Area today. My precious fog has up and ditched me. It’s not too bad in the house, and without humidity, it doesn’t feel as bad as 91 degrees would in NYC. But right now, I want a knight in shining armor, or at the very least The Lucky Mr. Mel, to come running in with a nice, cold glass of frappe so I can sit in the backyard, put my feet up, and read.

Actually, what I really want to experience is this:

So I had to bring my revising to a screeching halt so I could kevtch to all you good people and share this photo, which I took soon after I got off the boat on my last trip to Crete.

OMG. This is where I have to pause and discuss the yogurt. Forget that it’s as thick as soft serve ice-cream. Check out that honey. It’s made by the local bees and smells like lavender and citrus.

But enough that. Back to frappe. I’m a total coffee snob. I grew up two feet from the Gourmet Ghetto and Peet’s Coffee. So you’d think I’d scoff at Nescafe. And you’d be right. With the exception of frappe. And evaporated milk freaks me out a bit, but that’s what’s used in frappe so I deal.

I’d make it myself but it just doesn’t taste the same. But in case you want to give it a try, here you go:

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By the way, you know who else loves frappe? Sofie Metropolis. No, she’s not real. And that upsets me a lot because I adore her to pieces and when I read a book in the Sofie series (by Tori Carrington) I have this urge to get on the subway to Astoria and find her.

Well, there you have it. I’m jealous of my protagonist and my BFF isn’t even real. Such is life.

In any case, The Basement Divas are getting pissy. Which means I’d best be getting back to revisions.

Off I go.

Wait. No. I forgot to leave your parting gift.

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My characters dance to this. Only, it’s a better version, with words. It’s just that I thought y’all would enjoy the photos. (And while they did use this song in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it’s not from the movie. It’s a classic.)

And, and, and. . . I discovered Oh. My. Gods. and Goddess Bootcamp by the wonderful Tera Lynn Childs. I haven’t read much YA, but seriously, these books that take place on a magical Greek island totally made my summer.

My recommendation? Make a frappe and get reading!

Now, I’m really going. It seems that Pam‘s revising, so I can’t just sit here and not revise too, right?

*Update: I did it! I made frappe. It wasn’t quite like the authentic Greek frappe, but it was pretty close!

Posted in Fun With YouTube, Recipes, Writer Crazy | 6 Comments »

A Creature Tale

August 19th, 2010 by Melina

In Two Acts

Act 1:

Act II:


Posted in California Dreamin', Creature Feature | 6 Comments »

Moroccan (Sephardic) Meatballs

August 15th, 2010 by Melina

Compliments of my wonderful friend Ruth

Actually, Ruth is more than a friend. She’s family. I’ve known her since I was about 3 and a student in her “Tot Shabbat” class at the Jewish Community Center. I still remember making itty-bitty loaves of challah to bring back to my mother.

During my junior year abroad in Jerusalem, Ruth’s family became my family. I travelled south to Beersheba and the surrounding towns a few times to spend time with her wonderfully warm relatives.

What spiced the visits up – literally – is that her family is originally Moroccan. Ten years later I still remember her mother’s fish with garbanzo beans. Wow. Even more incredible was her sister’s seder. Even with the lack of matzoh ball soup (the Sephardim don’t do that), the new melodies and traditions (like passing the seder plate over our heads) made it my favorite seder ever.

Ruth was over a few nights ago, and she brought Moroccan meatballs with her. So of course I had to get the recipe and share it with you. But you’ll have to keep in mind that this is her mother’s recipe – meaning that it’s totally instinctive – so I’ve got no amounts for us to work with here.

Note: I’m posting this in conjunction with a recipe for Israeli couscous.

According to Ruth:

Mix 1 lb of ground beef with with very finely chopped onions and garlic (and maybe a bit of potato).

Add an egg.

Add salt, pepper, cumin, nutmeg and cinnamon.

To see if the seasoning needs adjustment, Ruth, and a bunch of Food Network chefs, recommend cooking one tiny meatball just to taste.

Put the meatballs in a pot. Cover with water and / or broth.

Add tumeric and some olive oil. Boil for a while. And then simmer.

At the end, turn the leftover liquid into sauce by adding peas, mushrooms, carrots, etc.

Hope you’ll try this recipe and pass along any tips you learned along the way! I ended up with way too much liquid. I removed the meatballs and reduced it. But next time, I’ll know.

(Shown here with Israeli couscous, organic tomatoes, squash, and olive bread from the farmer’s market. Mom went this morning and got a ton of loot.)


P.S. Here’s some good music for you, to set the mood. The last two minutes, when Sarit Hadad breaks out the riq, are the best. Actually, the Egyptian version of this song is one of my ringtones. Anyway, play this whilst cooking and I swear, the flavor will improve!

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Posted in Recipes | 3 Comments »

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