Pages

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe--Split Pea Soup

What a great writing week I'm having. I attended the IRWA Retreat last weekend and have been on a roll ever since. From the time I got home Sunday afternoon to last night, I've written 6400 words on The Morphing Subplot. Only another 12K or so to go to finish the manuscript.

The IRWA Retreat was held at Bradford Woods in Mooresville, Indiana, with about 30 members attending. I spent Friday evening and all day Saturday critiquing with my fellow conspirators from The Sextet. We'll be submitting our first set of short stories in December. Boy, are they hot! :D For a preview, go to www.TheSextet.com

Curl up with a hot story and a Bowl of Split Pea Soup on these chilly nights. And enjoy!



Split Pea Soup

1 1/2 cups dried green split peas
1 smoked ham hock or ham bone
6-8 cups water
1 medium onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
2 medium potatoes, cubed
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
A few shakes of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon basil flakes
1 cup ham, cubed

Place all ingredients, except cubed ham, in a large pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover. Add more water as necessary. Cook for 1 1/2 hours. Remove ham hock. Add cubed ham. Cook to desired thickness. Makes 6-8 servings.

Back to writing!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe--Chicken Paprikash

Fall is trying to fool us with a few days of warmer temperatures, but I know winter is just weeks away. The only trees with leaves left are the oaks and aspens out in the woods. The black walnuts have been bare for what seems like months, the maples dropped their leaves last week, and the mulberry trees finally gave up theirs in a rush as well. I'm ready to stoke the fire in the woodburning stove or, on the warmer evenings, light a Duraflame log in the fireplace. Time for hearty soups and homemade bread. Yummm!!!

In honor of my Hungarian heritage, this week's recipe is an adaptation of my grandmother's favorite dish. She used chicken thighs and sour cream in her Chicken Paprikash, while I created a healthier version. To my grandmother, Rose.



Chicken Paprikash

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or breast tenderloins
1 medium onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
3 carrots, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
a few shakes of black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
8-10 cups water
Dumplings (recipe below)

Place all ingredients except dumplings in a large pot. Cook over medium heat 1-2 hours or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken to cool. Cut into bite-size pieces. Return to pot.

Dumplings

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup water

Mix flour and salt. Add eggs and water. Stir and knead to make a stiff dough.

Bring soup to a gentle boil. Drop dough into the soup by small spoonfuls or pinches depending on desired size of dumplings. They double to triple in size during cooking. Simmer 30-40 minutes after all dough has been added to the soup. Makes 8-10 servings.

Off to write!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe--Fried Cornmeal Mush

Yeah, so I'm a couple weeks behind. Writing comes first, and the writing has been chugging along in the right direction. With the formation of The Sextet a few months ago, I've been working on hot and sexy short stories as well as my current Morphing Subplot. We'll be submitting our first set of stories by December first. Three of us have story #2 ready. I've finished the first draft of #3 and am waiting on a few answers to some research questions. AND #4 is underway! The Morphing Subplot is over 67,000 words now too.

Cold weather has come to Indiana, and I think it's here to stay for a while. Time to warm up with one of my favorites.

Fried Cornmeal Mush

1 cup cold water
1 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups water

Whisk together 1 cup cold water, cornmeal, and salt. Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal mixture, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook until thick. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook 10 more minutes. Pour into a buttered loaf pan. Refrigerate at least 4 hours.

To fry: Preheat an iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Remove cornmeal mush from loaf pan to a cutting board. Cut into 1/4 inch thick slices and fry until crisp on both sides (about 5-6 minutes per side). Keep warm in the oven while frying remaining slices.

Serve with warm syrup. Makes about 16-20 slices.

Back to writing!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe--Barbecued Pork Sandwiches

I've decided I need another me. The days aren't long enough to get through my to-do list. The real me wants to stick with writing, while me2 can do laundry, run errands, write bills, etc. :) I'm always in favor a quick and easy main dishes. Here's another...

Barbecued Pork Sandwiches

1 lb. lean boneless pork chops
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon unseasoned meat tenderizer
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup barbecue sauce

Sprinkle tenderizer on chops and let stand five minutes. Place tenderized chops, onion, and water in a medium saucepan. Cook partially covered over medium heat for 1 hour. Transfer chops to a plate to cool enough to handle. Do NOT discard remaining liquid. Remove any fat from the chops. Shred the meat, using two forks. Return meat to pan and add barbecue sauce. Mix well and cook over medium-low heat for at least 30 minutes to flavor through. Serve on hamburger buns with sliced pickles. Makes about 8 sandwiches.

Enjoy! And now back to writing!!!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe--Chocolate Truffles

I'm looking forward to a get-together with several writer friends on Saturday, and thought I'd share the recipes for my chocolate contribution. These fabulous truffles were a huge hit at a book group meeting this past January. They're fairly simple, but require at least an hour of refrigeration before shaping and another hour after they're done to become firm. Indulge yourself!

Milk Chocolate Truffles

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups milk chocolate chips
1 teaspoon water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
assorted coatings: ground walnuts or pecans, finely chopped almonds, unsweetened cocoa, graham cracker crumbs, shortbread cookie crumbs, confectioner sugar

Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler. Stir in cream cheese, water, and extract until well blended. Refrigerate at least one hour or until easy to handle.

Shape teaspoonfuls into balls. Roll in your choice of coatings. Place on waxed paper in a container and refrigerate at least one hour before servings.

Makes about 3 dozen. Store in refrigerator.

Chocolate Truffles

1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
8 ounces (2 packages) German sweet chocolate squares
assorted coatings: ground walnuts or pecans, finely chopped almonds, unsweetened cocoa, graham cracker crumbs, shortbread cookie crumbs, confectioner sugar

Combine cream, butter, and sugar in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil. Remove from heat. Add extract and chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Refrigerate at least one hour or until firm enough to handle.

Shape into 1-inch balls and roll in your choice of coatings. Place on waxed paper in a container and refrigerate at least one hour before servings.

Makes about 2 dozen. Store in refrigerator.

I don't think I have to "enjoy!"

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe--Zucchini Bread

Yes, I know I'm a couple days late. The morphing subplot has taken over my life--not necessarily a bad thing. This story seems to be writing itself, so who am I to argue?

Zucchini season is long gone in my garden between the heat, the lack of rain, and critters attacking the roots of the plants. However, I love fresh zucchini bread. I also freeze several loaves when I make it. If you don't have any zucchini in your garden, pick up a couple at the grocery store. And prepare to experiment!

Zucchini Bread

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil (for lower fat, substitute applesauce)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups grated zucchini
Optional mix/match additions: 1 cup raisins or dried cranberries, 1 cup ground walnuts or pecans, 1 cup coconut, 1 cup chocolate chips

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add liquids and stir. Add zucchini and remaining optional ingredients. Mix well. Pour into greased and floured bread pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans.

*Hint: Don't substitute cooking spray for shortening and flour to prepare pans. Chocolate chips tend to stick to the pan.

Makes three 9"X4" loaves.

Enjoy the last of the warm days of September!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Morphing Subplots

Have you ever had a story you couldn't set aside for even one day? Are you writing a story that wipes you out emotionally?

I've been working on a manuscript that answers a resounding YES to both questions. What started out as a subplot for a WIP has morphed into a full-blown story begging to be told. It's first love, true love, heartbreak, love nearly lost, and love rediscovered. The emotions run high and the hurts cut deep. The characters expose their feelings on every page. I can't wait to finish the story so they can live happily ever after. Even if this one never gets published, I'll read it and cry for my hero and heroine. They truly belong together.

Put your heart into a book :) I am.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe--Veggie (or Spinach) Lasagna

This week's recipe is one of my favorite dishes. In case you haven't noticed, I tend to like easy substitutions to make a variation. I use this same basic recipe for Spinach Lasagna as well as Veggie Lasagna. Check the notes at the end! Plan for about 20-25 minutes prep time and an hour for baking and stand time.

Veggie Lasagna

15 oz. low-fat ricotta cheese
dash of black pepper
couple dashes of nutmeg
2 tablespoons wheat germ
1 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup grated carrot
uncooked lasagna noodles
32 oz. of your favorite spaghetti sauce
3 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine ricotta cheese, pepper, nutmeg, wheat germ, zucchini, and carrots in a mixing bowl. Mix well.

Spread 1 cup spaghetti sauce in the bottom of 9"x 7" or 8"x 8" baking dish. Top with a single layer of uncooked lasagna noodles. Add half the ricotta/vegetable mixture and spread evenly. Pour 1 cup spaghetti sauce over and sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Layer with more lasagna noodles, the remaining ricotta/vegetable mixture, 1 cup spaghetti sauce, and 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Top with a final layer of lasagna noodles, 1 cup spaghetti sauce, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, and the Parmesan cheese.

Several options:

1) Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

2) Cover and refrigerate for later. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

3) Cover and wrap in foil. Freeze. Defrost in refrigerator 6-8 hours. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

*Note: For Spinach Lasagna--substitute 2 1/2 cups chopped fresh spinach for zucchini and carrots.

Makes 6-8 servings.

I like to serve homemade cinnamon bread with this recipe. Yummy!!!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Now Departing My Comfort Zone

First, a little backstory: My daughter is a senior at Purdue and is taking a class called Leadership for Organizational Change. I've been homeschooling my Asperger's son since first grade. He's now a freshman in high school.

A couple weeks ago my daughter called me, and the conversation went something like this--

"Hi, Mom. I have something big I need to talk to you about."

Okay, so now every mother's list of worst nightmares is running through my head. "Yeah? What's going on?"

"Well, in my leadership class I have this project I have to do, and I was wondering if I could interview you for my class."

Huge relieved sigh. "Sure. What's the topic?"

"The phases of transition. You know, like how writing has affected your day-to-day life. Oh, and we're supposed to do the interview during class."

"Okay, so you ask questions about time management and that sort of thing."

"Yeah. Could you drive over on September tenth to do it?"

"That should work. I don't have anything else on the calendar for that day."

"Great! Oh, and I need money for..."

Fast forward to a few days ago. Another phone call. This time we discuss the questions and what she wants to cover during the interview. An outline via email follows shortly thereafter. Visualize an inflating balloon here...

Today. Up at 6am. On the road at 8:30 after shower, breakfast, getting dressed, doing the morning dog and cats routine, changing clothes, waking son, remembering to take outline and assorted other necessities (like a couple jars of homemade salsa, peaches and cream instant oatmeal, etc.). Arrive at 10:30. Walk to class. Introduction to professor. Class begins. Have I mentioned that I'm not comfortable with public speaking?

About now I'm wondering where my daughter and I will sit while we discuss the psychological phases of transition I've experienced since I started writing. Will everyone be able to hear me? Will my ineptitude cause her to get a poor grade?

"Okay, let's get started. Student #1 (name has been changed to protect the no-so-innocent) will be interviewing her mom, Mellanie. You can stand here at the front of the classroom." That was the professor speaking.

And did I tell you I get very nervous about this sort of thing?

So Student #1 asks me how long I've been writing and when I decided to try to get published, as well as how many years I've been homeschooling. This leads into a discussion (me, talking to the class) of the three psychological phases of transition--ending, losing, letting go; the neutral zone; new beginning. Yes, daughter asks the questions we discussed during phone call number 2. I know the answers! I also have a cheat sheet (the outline). We move on to the reflection topics and Student #1's concluding statements. Question/answer time. Yes, people asked questions about my writing! How many hours a day do I write? How long does it take to write a book? What was the pitch line I used for my editor/agent appointments at the RWA National Conference? Do I use a pseudonym? All stuff I could answer!

Thirty minutes on the nose. Clapping. Positive feedback from the professor. Nobody fell asleep or yawned. And I didn't faint, throw up, or say something incredibly stupid! Okay, so it wasn't horrible. I survived!
And I stepped outside my comfort zone. What have you done that's outside your comfort zone?

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe--Salsa

It's tomato season!

I have only five tomato plants (two Roma, two Early Girl, one Sweet 100), but had more than enough tomatoes to make a double batch of salsa on Saturday. I use a mix of Roma and regular tomatoes to reduce the cooking time. If you like HOT salsa, substitute a jalapeno for one of the bell peppers.

Plan to spend all day on this project--three to four hours for picking, washing, and chopping vegetables; at least three to four hours of cooking time; at least two hours for the canning step. The effort is well worth the result!


Salsa

6-7 lbs. tomatoes, cored and chopped
3 medium onions, chopped
6 sweet banana peppers, chopped
3 red, yellow, OR green bell peppers, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons salt
1/2 cup+2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin

Mix all ingredients in large pot. Cook over medium heat for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally, until desired thickness. Fill sterilized jars and seal. Makes 7-8 pints.
*Note* Do not cook over higher temperatures. Tomatoes scorch easily.

This is my double batch in a medium canning pan. Just enough room to stir!

Enjoy with tortilla chips, on tacos and burritos, or in my Black Bean Dip. Remember that recipe with two ingredients from several months ago? :)

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cheetahs and Warthogs and Rhinos, Oh My!

Hubby, daughter, daughter's boyfriend, son, and I went to the Cincinnati Zoo this past Sunday. They've made some good changes--expanded parking, new areas for some of the animals, new exhibits--since our last visit three years ago.

One of the coolest new exhibits is the cheetah show. Using a fuzzy toy, the keepers lure the cheetah in a greyhound-like chase in the enclosure. These animals are amazing to see running at full speed in person.

We also saw an adorable warthog. He was incredibly smart!

And the Sumatran rhino enjoyed a mud bath, rolling and splashing while we were there.



I highly recommend a visit if you're in the area!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe--Spaghetti Squash w/White Bean-Marsala Sauce and Portabellas

My garden has had a great year for squash. I counted 15 spaghetti squash, over two dozen butternut squash, plus an abundance of tomatoes. Necessity is the mother of invention, so I came up with this recipe. It even gets a mention in a WIP. And special thanks to Rebecca for her feedback : ) Yes, you can use the sauce and mushrooms over colored pasta, but I love the flavor when served with spaghetti squash. Please leave a comment—I'd love to know what you think of my invention!


Spaghetti Squash with White Bean-Marsala Sauce and Portabellas


2 medium spaghetti squash, halved and baked

12 Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped

15.5 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

2 clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon sugar (more or less, to taste)

1 cup Marsala (I prefer Taylor New York)

6 oz. sliced portabella mushrooms

1 tablespoon olive oil

Freshly grated Parmesan


To prepare squash: Cut in half lengthwise and place cut side down on broiler pan. Add about 1/2 inch of water to the broiler drip pan. Bake at 425 degrees for 1 hour. Note—I prefer removing seeds after baking, but can be done before. Don't scrape too deeply or you'll dig into the strings that make it spaghetti squash! Scoop out of the shell to serve.


To peel tomatoes: Blanch in boiling water for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon, plunging into a bowl of ice water. Let stand 2 minutes. Remove tomatoes from ice water. Skin should peel away easily.


Sauce: In a medium saucepan combine chopped tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano, and sugar. Cook over medium heat for twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cannellini and Marsala. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer at least 30 minutes. Note: Sauce can be prepared ahead of time and reheated.

Sauteed Portabellas: Preheat 1 tablespoon olive oil in an iron skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Carefully lay mushroom slices flat in pan. Cook until lightly browned. Turn over to brown second side. Remove to warm plate.

Assemble: Place a bed of "spaghetti" strands on plate. Top with sauce, then mushrooms. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan. Makes 3-4 servings.


Enjoy!


Mellanie Szereto

Romance...With a Kick!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Where Did the Summer Go?

Wow. I can't believe I haven't posted in a month. What a busy summer. Trips to Hocking Hills, Salt Fork, Orlando, Bloomington, my hometown in Ohio. Gardening, painting, writing, moving daughter into her new apartment, exploring Indiana University High School as an option for son. Celebrated the 25th anniversary of meeting hubby and 24 years of marriage. Hubby was on sabbatical all summer...writing suffered a bit, but I'll catch up by year's end. Got a request for a partial and a full at the RWA National Conference! Another goal met!!! And had a great time with my fellow IRWA members in attendance.

Over the next few weeks, I'll post recipes for all those garden vegetables demanding time! Watch for Zucchini Bread, Salsa, Veggie Lasagna, and a spaghetti squash recipe I invented for a naughty foodie short story I'm working on. :D

Stay tuned!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hocking Hills

Yes, I promised these photos a while back. I had a few issues loading the pictures because I still have dial-up internet service (this story could be a 2000 word rant). Hope you enjoy them and consider making a trip to see Hocking Hills in person.
This first photo was taken at the Lower Falls at Old Man's Cave.

Next is a view from the Rim Trail at Conkle's Hollow. Those are tops of trees in the gorge. The cliff in the middle of the picture is about 200 feet high, with the trail following pretty closely along its edge.

This is the view looking out of Rock House into the gorge. Rock House is over a 100 feet long and about fifty feet high inside. Sandstone pillars form the front of the structure.

Hocking Hills is the setting for most of my stories. Breathtaking and inspiring!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Time to Play Catch Up

Have three weeks really passed since my last post? This has been a busy July. The hubby, kids, and I spent part of a week at Salt Fork State Park, a short drive from the site of hubby's 62nd annual family reunion. Yes, 62 years in a row. Amazing, isn't it? We got to catch up with people we see once a year, ate lots of good food, played Bingo, and had our official meeting. Hubby is president. I am secretary/treasurer. What a fun day!

A couple days later hubby and son left to go camping for four days. I stayed home and wrote and edited about 12 hours every day. Very productive with a quiet house. : )

I have also been trying to keep up with the garden. The green beans and zucchini have buried me, but I love having fresh vegetables. The eggplant and tomatoes have started as well. I promise to post some recipes using those ingredients!

And on to preparing for the RWA National Conference. I have the proper business professional clothing, business cards, a tentative schedule of events, appointments, and workshops, a polished manuscript, my pitch, and a stomach full of butterflies. Excited, but nervous. Am I ready to meet and mingle with 2100 writers of romance? Sounds overwhelming. I think I'll take a deep breath and dive in!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe - Summer Cottage Cheese Salad

Today's recipe is an adaption of Molly Katzen's White Rabbit Salad from The Moosewood Cookbook. It's a great addition to summer barbecues and picnics. Light, healthy, and easy to prepare. All of my favorites on those busy don't-really-feel-like-cooking days of summer.

Summer Cottage Cheese Salad

24 oz. low-fat small curd cottage cheese
1 large apple (I prefer Gala), cored and chopped into 1/2 cubes
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 golden raisins
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.

Variations: Try peach, nectarine, or pear in place of apple. Substitute 1 cup of halved grapes for raisins. Use pecans instead of walnuts. Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted sunflower seeds. Omit poppy seeds and add 1/8 teaspoon chili powder.

Don't you love summer recipes that don't require turning on the oven or stove?! Enjoy!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe - Peach Cobbler

Yes, I know today is Friday. :P Where do all the days go?

I bought fresh peaches this week. Voila! Peach Cobbler. Easy as...cobbler! Even as much as I enjoy making pie, cobbler is much easier.

Peach Cobbler

1/2 cup margarine (1 stick)
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
7-8 ripe peaches, washed, peeled, and chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place margarine in a medium casserole dish. Put in oven to melt margarine. Mix flour, sugar, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Add milk. Stir. Pour over mixture over melted margarine. Add chopped peaches. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned.

Serve warm or cold, with or without ice cream. Can substitute 3-4 cups of chopped apples, raspberries, mulberries, blackberries, or pears for peaches. Or try a combination!

Happy Baking!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Molly the Motivator

Today I got a kick in the backside to hurry up and get published. While shopping for shoes to wear to an outdoor wedding tomorrow, I met a romance fan. How do I know she's a fan of romance, you ask. Well, I sort of got distracted by a few little black dresses--a perfect match for the black evening sandals I got for the Golden Heart/RITA Awards at the RWA National Conference next month. Yes, I bought the shoes first. What can I say? I love shoes.

As the salesperson is ringing up my purchases (one pair of shoes and one little black dress), she asks if I'm buying them for a special occasion. I tell her about the wedding and the writers' conference.

"What do you write?" she asks.

"Romance," I say.

"Really? Romance is my guilty pleasure!"

"You have nothing to feel guilty about." I grin. Why do women think of romance as a secret indulgence?

She goes on to ask for titles of my books. When I answer I'm working on getting published, she gives the kind of encouraging response every writer wants to hear. "Oh, I'm sure you'll get published." Then she asks if I have a website. (A savvy reader, how cool is that?) I tell her about my blog and that I'm on facebook and twitter. She says she loves blogging. Can she have my blog address?

So, this blog is dedicated to Molly. Thanks for the motivation boost. Follow me and I'll make sure you're one of the first to know when I get published. : )

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe - Foil Dinners

I couldn't resist going rustic with this week's recipe after spending four days at Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio. Okay, so I didn't rough it in a tent, or even a camper. A cabin is much more relaxing at the end of five miles of rugged hiking. Look for pictures of Rock House and Cantwell Cliffs in a couple days.

Foil Dinners (makes 1 packet--double or triple as needed)

2-3 chicken breast tenderloins
1 medium onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 medium potatoes, scrubbed and sliced 1/8 inch thick
3 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
salt
pepper
parsley
2 tablespoons margarine, cut into 4 pieces

Start a charcoal fire before assembling foil packets. Use about 3-4 lbs. of charcoal for one packet, 5-6 lbs. for two packets, 7-8 lbs. for three packets. Fire should be very hot for cooking.

For each packet--begin with a sheet of foil about 26-30 inches long, shiny side up. Place chicken in the center of the foil. Salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley. Top with sliced onions, then sliced potatoes. Salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley. Dot with margarine. Top with sliced carrots. To close packet, bring side edges together. Fold until flat against the top of the mound. Fold in top and bottom edges. Squeeze firmly.

Tear a second piece of foil the same size as the first. Wrap again, right side up. Make sure to turn so center seams form an X instead of lining up on top of each other. Fold closed as instructed above. Squeeze firmly. **Always double wrap with foil**

Level out hot coals, setting aside 5-6 briquets per packet. Lay packet directly on coals. Top with set aside briquets. Cook 20-25 minutes. Be very careful of escaping steam when opening packets!

Tips--Can use steak, boneless pork chops, hamburger patties, or go meatless. Try garlic and herb seasoning or paprika for different flavor.

Enjoy!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe - Magic Cookie Bars

Yeah, I know. Late again. Sorry, I was out of town for a couple days visiting IU and the area nearby. On Wednesday my son and I hiked two miles in the pouring rain at McCormick's Creek State Park while Dad/Hubby attended a meeting on campus at the Indiana Geological Survey. Thursday we all met with the director, one of the advisors, and the special ed. coordinator for IU High School, a virtual correspondence/online diploma-granting school. We're hoping to replace homeschooling with their program. After the meeting we returned to the park for a couple more miles of rugged trails--with no rain, but lots of bugs. My son and I decided we prefer rain. :D

This week's recipe is one of my all-time favorite cookie recipes. Have everything ready before you begin and these heavenly bars will be done in about 40 minutes, including prep.

Magic Cookie Bars

2 packages graham crackers, crushed (packages, not boxes--2/3 of a box)
1/2 cup margarine
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 11.5 oz. package milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup ground walnuts
1/2 cup coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put margarine in a 13"x9" cake pan; place in oven until margarine is melted. Remove from oven. Pour graham cracker crumbs over margarine to make a crust in the bottom of the pan. Pour and spread sweetened condensed mik over crust. Sprinkle on milk chocolate chips. Combine walnuts and coconut. Sprinkle mixture over chocolate and press with fingers. Return pan to oven for about 20-22 minutes or until golden brown.

These are fantastic served warm with a scoop of ice cream. Top with hot fudge and caramel sauce. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts. Or serve cool. They're great that way, too!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

May Report

May was a tough month--three birthdays, two holidays, and one family emergency. The bad news...I had only 29,330 words for the month, not quite making my 1000 words a day goal. The good news...my year-to-date total through May 31 is 151,517 words (or just over 1003 words a day average). Not too shabby, huh? I'm already pushing myself harder this month. I plan to make up for May!

Happy Writing!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe - Pick Your Own Combo Pasta

I'm a couple days late in posting this week's recipe, but sometimes life gets in the way. Want another quick and easy recipe with only a handful of ingredients? Pick your meat, pick your vegetables, pick your pasta. Ready in about thirty minutes, including prep!

Pick Your Own Combo Pasta

1 cup Italian salad dressing, divided
1 lb. peeled shrimp or boneless skinless breast
1 medium onion, chopped
16 oz. can quartered artichoke hearts, drained or 2 cups broccoli florets
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 lb. pasta (I usually use shells or rotini)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare pasta according to directions on box. While pasta cooks, preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup salad dressing, onion, and shrimp or chicken. Saute until cooked through. Add vegetables. Cook broccoli until crisp-tender, artichokes and mushrooms until heated through.

Toss remaining salad dressing with cooked pasta. Add contents of skillet and mix gently. Serve. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

I prefer shrimp and artichoke or chicken and broccoli, but feel free to substitute or interchange.

A light, easy-to-prepare meal for those hot summer days!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

My Garden is Planted!

My garden took two days to plant, but it's done! Hubby tilled all 3600 square feet with the walk-behind tiller--our tractor needs a new clutch, so the PTO-driven tiller was a no go. Son helped make rows. They were much straighter than my rows usually end up. We planted corn, green beans, potatoes, yellow onions, green onions, leeks, beets, carrots, spinach, lettuce, pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, four kinds of squash, two kinds of melons, and eggplant. New this year are broccoli, cauliflower, celery, and a peanut plant. Yes, a peanut plant. We only put in five tomato plants since we have lots of tomato puree, soup, salsa, and barbecue sauce left from the last couple years. That left space to try something completely different. Hopefully the weeds won't see this as an invitation...

Watch for posts on how to use all those fresh vegetables as harvest time nears! Happy gardening!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe - Shortbread Cookies

In honor of Rebecca's shortbread giveaway over at Romancing the Palate, I'm sharing my recipe for Shortbread Cookies this week. They melt in your mouth and make a wonderful cheesecake crust. Real butter is a MUST for this recipe. And when I say sift, I mean sift!

Shortbread Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened **Do Not Substitute!**
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornstarch

Cream butter. Add sifted powdered sugar gradually, beating until light and fluffy. Sift together flour and cornstarch. Add to creamed mixture; blend. Shape dough into a ball and chill at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Shape into 1 inch balls. Place 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten balls to 1/2 inch thickness with a fork. Bake at 300 degrees for 20-22 minutes. Cool slightly before removing from cookie sheets. Place on wire racks or waxed paper to cool completely. Store in airtight container.
Makes about 4 dozen.

I bet you can't eat just one!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

50K Challenge

No, I am not talking about running. This 50K is a writing challenge issued by RWA PRO Liaison, Cynthia D'Alba. In March, RWA members were invited to take the 50K Challenge--write 50,000 words between April 1 and July 28 (the first day of the RWA National Conference). Participants can post their goals and weekly word counts on a forum message board. We give each other support and applause in our quest to meet the challenge. What a great group of writers!

As of midnight last night, I met my 50K Challenge!!! I'll continue to post my weekly totals and cheer on the rest of the group. For any of those reading my post...

Write, write, write!!!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe - Baked Zucchini (or Eggplant) Parmesan

I love pasta! And this is one of my absolute favorite pasta dishes. I tend to make more with zucchini when I have it fresh from the garden, but love the eggplant version, too. Allow at least an hour to make this recipe, and a bit longer if using homemade sauce. I'm including my all purpose spaghetti sauce as well.

Zucchini (or Eggplant) Parmesan

2-3 zucchini (about 8 inches long), cut in half, then into 1/2 inch thick lengthwise slices
or
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut like the zucchini
1 cup flour
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
16 ounces spaghetti sauce
olive oil
3/4 pound spaghetti, cook while browning the vegetables (10 minutes for al dente)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Line up three medium bowls on your workspace. Beat the egg in one bowl. Add milk and mix well. Put the flour in second bowl and the breadcrumbs in the third bowl. Dredge zucchini or eggplant slices in flour. Tap to remove excess flour, then dip both sides in egg mixture. Transfer to breadcrumbs and pat to coat well.

Preheat a large nonstick frying pan over medium to medium high for two minutes. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Brown breaded zucchini or eggplant slices on both sides, transferring to a medium casserole dish when done. Continue until all slices are browned, adding more olive oil to the pan as needed.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese over zucchini or eggplant. Pour 1/2 the spaghetti sauce over the cheese. Top with cooked spaghetti. Pour remaining sauce over spaghetti and sprinkled on the rest of the mozzarella. Top with the grated Parmesan. Bake 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and lightly browned. Makes 6-8 servings.

Spaghetti Sauce

16 ounces (1 pint) tomato puree
1-2 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
dash of black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Mix all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring often. Freezes well.

Whip up or buy a loaf of Italian bread and enjoy!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cell Phones and Driving Don't Mix

Finally, after five years of not riding my husband is going to buy a new bike. What happened to his old one, you ask?

One day he dropped off his truck at the mechanic's for a tune-up. He rode his bike from the garage to work--less than 2 miles. After work he headed back to pick up his truck. Halfway there a pickup driven by a man talking on a cell phone cut off a left turn, hitting my husband's bike and dragging it under the truck. Luckily my husband is very athletic and was able to jump off the bike. His ankle didn't clear the bike completely, leaving cuts and bruises. Five years later he still has ankle pain and flashbacks occasionally. Nothing like a big black truck almost squishing you to leave a lasting impression.

Please don't talk on your cell phone while driving. Instead, pull off the road or into a parking lot, let the call go to voicemail, or, if you must, use a hands-free device (speakerphone or bluetooth). You could save a life.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe - Apple Stir-fried Pork

Wow! Wednesday again already! This week's recipe is a favorite in my house. It's an adaptation of a Frugal Gourmet recipe I tried more than a decade ago. As this is served over steamed rice, I've included a very simple method for perfect rice every time.

Apple Stir-fried Pork

1/2 lb. very lean boneless pork chops, cut into thin strips
1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sherry (I prefer Taylor New York)
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced
2 large apples, cored and sliced (I prefer Gala, but have also used Yellow Delicious)
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a medium bowl combine pork, soy sauce, sherry, garlic powder, and ginger. Set aside to marinate for 10-15 minutes. Cook rice.
Preheat large wok over medium-high for 2 minutes. Add olive oil and swirl to coat pan. Add pork mixture and stir-fry until no longer pink, about 6-8 minutes. Add sliced apples and onions. Stir and cook until apples are tender and onions are translucent.
Serve over steamed rice. Makes 3-4 servings.

Steamed Rice: Combine 1 cup long- cooking, long grain rice with 1 1/2 cups water in medium saucepan (or 1 part rice to 1 1/2 parts water). Cook over medium-high heat until craters form in the surface. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand 5 minutes.

I highly recommend making enough for lunch leftovers!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Deep Breath...AHHH

Okay, Life, I need a few minutes to catch my breath. The past week was insanely busy and I want a short time out. Between dental checkups for my son and me, an orthodontist appointment for my son, a doctor's appointment for me, my daughter moving home for the summer, my birthday : ) (and hubby had graduation duty that day), my local RWA chapter meeting, and Mothers Day I'm pooped. And I made time to write every day as well! And did I mention I'm the new PRO Liaison for my RWA chapter?!

How do we balance all those responsibilities and commitments without losing our minds? Let me know when you figure it out!!!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

April Update

Okay, so I'm a little behind on posting my April updates. Life got in the way this week! We celebrated my son's fourteenth birthday and attended my daughter's end of semester dance company performance at Purdue on May first. I began my month of mentorship with Kerri Nelson on the first as well, and started an online class taught by Cindy Vallar, To Be or Not To Be and Other Editing Quandaries. I chose this workshop as part of the prize pack I won from The Book Boost blog. Will I get past my editing woes? We shall see.

Drum roll...I wrote 30,046 words for the month of April. This goes toward the 50K Challenge issued by Cynthia D'Alba, RWA PRO Liaison. She threatened to up my challenge to 100,000 words by July 25th since I'm almost there already : ) My year-to-date total is 122,187 words!!! Hopefully the month of May will include a finished manuscript and those 1000 words a day.

Happy Writing!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With Kick!

Wednesday's Recipe - Guacamole

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, let's make a batch of guacamole! Be sure to start with a ripe avocado. How do you tell if it's ripe? First, see those bright green avocados in the produce section? NOT ripe. They should be very dark green, almost black. Look for one with some give, but not squishy. Hard will not work unless you want to make this recipe at least four days from now.

Peeling an avocado--cut in half lengthwise to the pit. Give each half a twist in opposite directions. One half is ready to scoop into a bowl, the other contains the pit. Pay attention--this gets technical now! :D Whack the blade of the knife into the pit and twist to remove. Ready to begin!

Guacamole

1 ripe avocado
two dashes of garlic powder (less than 1/8 teaspoon)
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
dash of ground black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (I prefer no fat-no cholesterol since avocados are high in fat)

Scoop the insides of the avocado into a bowl and mash with a fork. Add garlic powder, chili powder, black pepper, lemon juice, and mayo. Mix well and chill.
Serve with tortilla chips, pretzels, burritos, salads, etc., etc., etc.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe - Eggplant Scallopini

I love pasta, and Eggplant Scallopini is one of my favorite sauces for spaghetti. This recipe makes 8-10 servings and freezes well. Plan to spend at least ten minutes chopping vegetables beforehand. Actual cooking time is about 45 minutes, and remember to begin heating water for pasta after the addition of Marsala and parsley.

Eggplant Scallopini

1 large onion, chopped
1 medium eggplant, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons margarine
1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic (or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon basil
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup (8 ounces) tomato puree
1 cup Marsala (I prefer Taylor New York)
2 tablespoons parsley
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil and margarine in a large pot over medium to medium high heat. Add onions, garlic, and bay leaf; saute 5 minutes. Add eggplant. Stir and cover; reduce heat to medium and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms, green peppers, tomatoes, basil, black pepper, and puree. Mix well and cover; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add Marsala and parsley. Stir and cover; simmer 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add Parmesan cheese just before serving. Serve over pasta.

Come to the table hungry and leave full! Enjoy!!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe - Chicken Marsala

This week's recipe is a little more complicated than last week's, but still fairly simple. Be sure to have everything ready before you begin cooking. I also recommend using chicken breast tenderloins rather than halves as they cook faster and make for easy portion control. One boneless skinless chicken breast half equals 3-4 tenderloins.

Chicken Marsala

8-10 chicken breast tenderloins
about 1 cup of flour, in a large plastic storage bag
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons margarine
1/2 pound of sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup Marsala wine (I prefer Taylor New York)
1/2 cup chicken broth

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Place tenderloins in the bag of flour to coat. Shake off excess flour and place chicken in pan. Cover. Cook, turning once to brown both sides. Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.
Add margarine and mushrooms. Saute for one minute. Stir in Marsala and chicken broth. Cook until liquid is reduced by one half, about 5 minutes. Place the chicken on top of the mushroom mixture to heat through.
To serve, place chicken on plate and top with the mushroom sauce.

Enjoy!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Friday, April 16, 2010

I Won! I Won!

I'm very excited to say I won Kerri Nelson's The Book Boost blog "Journey to the Call" commenter contest! She offered a HUGE prize pack with lots of resources I can't wait to use. She included three of her published stories, a book on writing query and cover letters, an online workshop, a critique of my query and 1st three chapters, a month of mentorship, and help forming a writing plan. Thank you, Kerri!!! Scroll to the bottom of this page to find the link to The Book Boost.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday's Recipe - Black Bean Dip

I'm always on the lookout for new recipes, so I thought I would share some of my favorites as a hefty push over the middle of the week hump. Today's recipe is Black Bean Dip. I also use the black bean filling for burritos and taco salad. Yummy with a fresh fruit salad! And, no, this is not a typo--two (2) main ingredients!

Black Bean Dip

29-ounce can of black beans
16-ounce jar of salsa (I use a pint jar of home-canned salsa)

In a strainer, drain the black beans, rinse with cold water, and drain again. In a saucepan, mix black beans and salsa. Cook over medium heat until slightly thickened, about 20-25 minutes. Stir often.
For black bean dip, pour the mixture into a casserole dish and top with grated cheddar or colby-jack cheese. Bake at 350˚F until cheese is melted, about 10 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips.
For burritos, spoon filling onto a warm tortilla. Top with your choice of grated cheese, lettuce, chopped tomato, guacamole, and sour cream. Fold up the bottom of the tortilla and roll in from the side.
For taco salad, spoon filling into a tortilla bowl. Top with your choice of grated cheese, lettuce, chopped tomato, guacamole, and sour cream.

Let me know how you like it!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Update on March

Without those goals I set in January, I never would've written as much as I did in March. Last night I ended with 31,114 words for the month. Whew! And I finished a manuscript!!! Those monthly goals have made a tremendous difference in my output and motivation. The journey toward acquiring an agent and getting published seems shorter. Although I received a rejection on the partial I had out to an agent, I'm ready to query others and will stay hopeful. Off to write!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Woody Woodpecker lives at my house






Okay, so probably not the real Woody Woodpecker. But I have seen a pair of pileated woodpeckers numerous times over the past two months. The distinctive squawking call is unmistakable, and the slower, deeper thumping of their pecking echoes through the woods. Normally they are heard and not seen, but these two have been out of the heavily wooded areas and as close as twenty feet from my house. They like to hang upside down in a young black walnut tree to reach the suet feeders. I've also spotted them in a two-hundred-something-year-old maple tree (mostly hollow, mostly dead) across the driveway in the pasture. Check out the pics! Note how she uses her tail feathers as an extra set of hands to balance.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tweeting and Friending

This month RWA's PRO-class is tackling the subject of social media. This tech-unsavvy writer now knows enough about Twitter and Facebook to be dangerous. Yes, I am tweeting and friending! The good news--I found several friends from high school and have connected with lots of my fellow RWA PROs. The bad news--I'm not entirely sure I know what I'm doing on either. Well, I'll give it a try!!!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spring Break

Vacation pushed Pilates to the wayside this week in favor of hiking. My family and I enjoyed four days at Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio. Ash Cave was the first stop, with the easy half-mile hike back to this large sandstone overhang once inhabited by Native Americans. The fifty-degree-plus weather contributed to the rushing waterfall of ice and snowmelt, dropping over a hundred feet to the floor of the gorge. Our next stop was Cedar Falls, named for the hemlock trees mistaken for cedar. Icicle curtains hung from the sandstone cliffs like glacier-colored stalactites.

Tuesday's trek consisted of a six-mile loop from the Old Man's Cave trail past Rose Lake Dam to Cedar Falls, then back to the Lower Falls at Old Man's Cave. After a late lunch we hiked the Old Man's Cave trail. Parts of the Gorge Trail were so treacherous from ice, we had to backtrack and reroute around those areas, but the numerous falls and natural ice sculptures mad for some breathtaking pictures.

The most rugged trails took most of Wednesday. Because of dangerous conditions, the rim trail at Conkles Hollow was closed. The gorge trail led us through the deep narrow fog-filled valley. Huge ice curtains hung from the cliffs, with runoff creating waterfalls to join the stream at the base of the gorge. Rock House and Cantwell Cliffs, my personal favorites, had us improvising in several places where fallen trees blocked our paths. Rock falls and erosion had also damaged bridges and stone steps in a few spots. Half the fun was forging our way along the steep boulder-strewn sides of the valleys to find a new way to the existing trails.

Thursday, our last day, we packed up and checked out of the cabin. Before heading home, we made another stop at Old Man's Cave. The difference a couple of days of warm weather made was amazing. The river had gone down at least six inches. Many of the ice curtains had melted or fallen. We were even able to hike the sections of the trail that had impassible. I can't wait to go back this summer!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Goal Tending

I had another great goal-tending month in February! In addition to registering for the RWA National Conference, I also averaged nearly 1100 words per day and am waiting to hear back on a partial request from an agent. And somehow I have managed to maintain my three times a week Pilates schedule as well.

More good news--my son's dog is finally responding to treatment for diabetes. After two months, blood sugar as high as 692 (no, that isn't a typo), and two kinds of insulin, yesterday he tested at 491 on 35 units of Novolin twice a day. The vet bumped up the dosage to 40 units twice a day, in hopes that may control his blood sugar levels. At $61 a bottle for insulin, I'm paying almost $200 a month for medication. Then there are the weekly visits to the vet, boxes of syringes, urine test strips, special food, etc.

I have decided to add another goal for March. One of my manuscripts has hovered near completion for several weeks, so this month I want to finish it. That will bring my total to four completed 90,000 word manuscripts!

Time to drag those words out of my mind and put them on paper, so to speak.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tickling My Muse

My muse is alive and...musing? Although I've had a couple of days with little or no time to write, I'm managing to average that 1000 words a day so far this month. Yesterday I banged out over a thousand words in the two hours I had available. That made up for the days with only a couple hundred in the fifteen minutes here and ten minutes there.

I started a critique group several weeks ago as well. My crit buddies, Lisa and Mark, are giving me some excellent feedback. After writing and reading my work, I often overlook simple mistakes or don't notice holes in the plot. I have all the backstory in my head and have to make a conscious effort to remember that my readers won't have that advantage. I hope Mark and Lisa are getting as much from the group as I am.

Well, back to the keyboard!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Canine Diabetes

The first week of January my vet diagnosed my son's dog with diabetes. Our ten-year-old "puppy" had been drinking over a gallon of water a day. From his annual checkup in late October to his sick visit two months later he went from 78 pounds to 63 pounds. Yeah, that sounds like a lot. To be truthful, it's easy to overlook in a large dog. After a urine glucose test and an in-office blood test, the doctor put him on Vetsulin--the veterinary equivalent of insulin. Normal blood sugar range for a dog is between 80 and 120. Our poor guy came in at 406. So, I began giving twice-a-day 10 units insulin shots and checking his blood sugar level once a day with a urine test strip. Every three days we returned to the vet's office for a blood test of his glucose level. We have since gone up in dosage to 12, 15, 18, 21, and 25 units twice a day, and we've watched his blood sugar go from 406 to 606, 586, 604, 587, 583, and 612. The urine test strips show a consistent 1/2 reading.

Today our puppy spent the day at the vet's having blood drawn every three hours to check his blood sugar. It ranged from 496 to 512, a sign that Vetsulin is not working. We have switched to a human insulin--Novolin. Because this insulin is more concentrated, we are beginning back at 10 units again twice a day.

Canine diabetes is similar to human diabetes in symptoms, treatments, and side affects. Already suffering from cataracts before the diagnosis, they have advanced to the point of completely obscuring his vision in a very short time. At about $2500 per eye for cataract surgery, correcting the problem is not a financially viable option for us. Treating diabetes in animals can be expensive as I am discovering, but how do I put a price on my son's pet?

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Yay for me!!!

I met my writing goal for January! With a few late nights and a lot of hard work, I wrote 31,011 words for the month. Now that 1000 words a day for the year doesn't seem quite so daunting, especially with some fellow writers shooting for the same goal with me.

I also managed to squeeze in Pilates three mornings a week all month. Another goal accomplished for January! And I feel great! Could be one of the reasons for my productive writing month.

I'm working on my goal of acquiring an agent. After sending an email query last week, I received a request for a partial manuscript the same day! It's as scary as it is exciting. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this agent will like my work and request the full manuscript, putting me that much closer to selling a manuscript this year. Achieving these two goals would make my 2010!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...with a Kick!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

One of Those Days...

Everyone has one of those days (weeks, months, years...) from time to time. Mine started nearly two weeks ago and I'm hoping it ends soon. Luckily, none of the bad things has turned out terrible.

A suspicious mammogram took me to the doctor for a follow-up that came back clear. Phew!

The vet and I are working to treat my dog's recently diagnosed diabetes. Change of food, once a day glucose urine test, twice a day insulin shots, back to the vet every three to four days for a blood glucose test. Hopefully we'll find the optimal insulin dose soon.

Someone scraped their bumper against the side of my daughter's car (no, he/she didn't leave a note). Trying to get repair estimates for a car a hundred miles from the body shop has not been fun. Thank goodness for email and digital cameras! Now we have to work out when to my daughter will be home from college long enough to have the repairs done.

On the brighter side, I finally got my critique group started this week. I'm hoping for some helpful feedback on my contemporary with suspense elements manuscript. This story means a lot to me. Like my son who has Asperger's Syndrome, one of the main characters is an autistic child. I've added a links at the bottom of my blog page for the Autism Society's website and Autism Speaks to learn more.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...with a Kick

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Goal #2

In making my list of goals, I thought to push myself to finish those WIPs. Who knew it would lead to forcing a resolution to a problem I've been mulling over for a couple months. I saw my hero and heroine's dark moment coming and had thought of one scenario, but hadn't been able to work out how to get them there. Yesterday I had an *Aha* moment! After weeks of working on other manuscripts, I finally made it back to Allie and Mike. And goal #1 is becoming easier to achieve with my new-found inspiration. Last night the words wanted out faster than I could write. I'm still hearing their voices in my head calling for more of that conflict. Hopefully my hands and eyes won't give out before my brain does today :) Maybe I'll be able to cross one story off my to-finish list soon!

Signing off to work on goals 1 & 2,

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...with a Kick