Sand Castles

I am a beach baby, and I come by it honestly. The day before I was born, my very pregnant mother spent the day at the shore, floating and paddling in salt water until the lifeguard asked her to come in, telling her, “Miss, please come back to the beach now. Your mother is worried, and frankly, so are we.”

My first word was “beach,” and while I did have blocks, and play with them at a young age, my first toy was sand, my first structure a castle that looked suspiciously like an inverted paper cup fashioned from wet sand, with a sea gull feather as a flag.

I don’t live near enough to a beach to indulge in making sand castles all that often, but part of me still has that urge, which is why I was interested to learn of moon sand.

Moon Sand is technicolored modeling sand, softer and less messy than clay, and not dependent on water to make it stick together the way beach sand is. It’s non-toxic, contains no peanuts or wheat products, and you can get a sample kit for less than $20 (tax and shipping not included).

The folks who make Moon Sand also have come really cool sand castle molds, and an inflatable sand box that can hold enough sand for an entire model of Carcassone, or merely accommodate a collection of small hands. Even better, it doesn’t absorb water, and it floats, so if you wanted to build a moat around your castle, you totally could.

I’m really excited about ordering some moon sand.
Sand castles, here I come!

Thursday 13: 0709.27

Thirteen Things about MISS MELISS
Things that Begin with T

  1. Tackle Boxes My grandfather used to take me fishing from the pier in Atlantic Highlands, and we would sit on tackle boxes. Later, after he died, I liked to explore his tackle box, playing with the hooks and lures and all sorts of masculine treasures.
  2. Tangrams: These “dissection puzzles” are made from seven geometric shapes. You’re given an outline, and have to arrange the shapes to form the design. More fun than it sounds like, really.
  3. Tank Tops: I wear tank tops all the time, either under v-neck t-shirts, just layered, over bathing suits, or under button down shirts. They are a staple of my wardrobe.
  4. Tap dancing: My favorite kind of show dancing because you cannot tap-dance while being upset or angry. It’s just not possible. Tap-dancing is joyous, freeing movement.
  5. Taxis: I am a city girl. I like the luxury and ease of cab rides. Taking a cab up and down the hills of San Francisco can be as exhilarating as the biggest roller-coaster, by the way.
  6. Tea: I love coffee, of course, but I love tea as well. It can be soft and soothing, vibrant and stimulating, or deep and mysterious. Lapsang Souchong and Earl Grey are my favorite writing teas, and mint blends are my old stand-bys when I need something refreshing. I live on iced tea in the summer, and hot tea and soy chai lattes with honey in winter.
  7. Tesseracts: Madeleine L’Engle used them to demonstrate space-time concepts in A Wrinkle in Time but tesseracts have actually been around longer than that. You may know them by their other name: hypercube, although, just as all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares, all tesseracts are hypercubes, but not all hypercubes are tesseracts. You can’t really DRAW a tesseract, but…it’s sort of like cubing a cube.
  8. Texture: I love the way things feel. The cool softness of fresh sheets, the crisp brittleness of a fallen leaf, the moisture of drizzle, the plushness of Miss Cleo’s fur, the more wiry but still soft feel of Zorros, the slickness of ice, the way velvet changes texture depending on which way you brush the pile…I could go on forever.
  9. Theatre: There is something completely cathartic and marvelously magical about live performance. All other forms of entertainment lack the visceral connection between performer and audience, and the necessary level of willful suspension of disbelief.
  10. Tights: I hate pantyhose, but I love tights. Cotton, colorful, and not just hosiery, but a fashion statement in themselves. Also? Extremely comfortable when wearing boots.
  11. Tomatoes: My favorite way to eat them is just to pull them from the vine, brush any dirt off, and bite into their sun-warmed succulence, but, like Harriet the Spy, I’m a fan of tomato sandwiches as well. A little mayo, whole grain bread, and slices of tomato – cheddar cheese if I’m feeling particularly self-indulgent, sprouts if I’m trying to be uber-healthy – and I am a happy woman.
  12. Travel: I love experiencing new places and different cultures, though I like coming back home also. I like train trips more than planes, and would love to spend a summer on a wooden boat, but mostly, I just want to go and see and do.
  13. Trowels: My grandfather (it’s fitting that I start and end with him) kept a special set of gardening tools just for me. Petite sized handles with cushy foam, for digging beside him in the garden. The trowel is my favorite.

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Bedroom Fantasies

I like to write in bed. In fact, I do my best writing in bed. I even just emailed a friend that I was thinking about taking the desk out of my writing studio and replacing it with a day bed, so I could write the way I want to, and still be in my own space when Fuzzy’s monopolizing our bedroom sleeping off his over-night maintenances.

I mention this because if I do take such a drastic measure, it’s an excuse to go shopping for bedding, not that I need an excuse, really. Like books, you can never have too many pretty quilts or soft cotton sheets.

I browse online a lot, so when I found Terry’s Fabrics, you can bet that I was excited about the bedding potential they offered. Then I realized all the prices were in pounds, and they were in the UK. Still if I’m converting correctly, their prices are great, and they have an entire section of their website devoted to interior design tips, which I really enjoyed reading through, since my official knowledge is pretty much limited to grouping things in odd numbers, and never referring to draperies as drapes.

If you actually live in the UK, you may want to know that they have actual physical storefronts in Staffordshire and Stockport. Personally, I’m always a little bit more comfortable doing business with a click-and-mortar shop instead of one that is online only.

Check them out.
And then tell me about your design inspirations.
I really want to know.

Tiring Tuesday

It’s been an incredibly long day, and I’m exhausted, despite not having really done much. I’m also starving, which I think isn’t so much because I haven’t been eating, but because I haven’t been eating the right foods. Today was a day of tea and toast, not because I’m sick, but because I was tired, and busy, and kept getting distracted.

I finally tumbled into bed around three last night, after making sure our bedroom and office were ready for the impending arrival of the AT&T Uverse installation guy, who wasn’t supposed to come today. Well, he was, but then he wasn’t and…

Okay, here’s what happened. A couple weeks ago, it was a lovely Tuesday and the temps were only in the high seventies, and two Uverse sales guys came to my door. I don’t generally have the patience for such folks, but the stars must have been aligned in a particularly lovely way, because I listened, and even ordered the service. Pre-ordered. I hadn’t committed.

I sat down and did the math, and then called Fuzzy in California, and he grumbled tiredly at me, so I waited for him to come home, explained all the math and then called the Uverse folks back and said, “We want to go forward, but we need to add a fourth box.”

They said they couldn’t find my order.

I called the door-knocking guy back, and he came back and sat with me, and they determined that the order was corrupted, and that we’d have to start over, and they tried to cancel everything in the system, and it had a to-be-canceled flag, but wouldn’t die, and finally we did a new order in Fuzzy’s name.

Then yesterday I got a message they were coming this morning.

And then today at 8:03 a phone call. I told the tech the whole story, and he said, “well, I’m here, let me do the cross connect and I’ll fix the rest.” And he did.

And so, we now have a canceled order for Fuzzy, and working internet and television on the Uverse platform, and I even managed to make TiVo work on the two sets we moved the TiVo boxes to, because the main tv now sports the Uverse DVR that can record four standard def shows at once.

I took a nap with Fuzzy, who has moonlight maintenances all week.
I watched MissCleo chase geckos and frogs around the yard.
I had cocoa, because sometimes you just have to.
I blogged and wrote an article for work.

And I’m tired.
And hungry.

And I think I’ll go make a sandwich or something.

And then go to bed.

And tomorrow, aside from writing a lot, I will begin to learn where all the channels are on this new system.

Mmm. Sleep.


And with the return of Heroes premier week has begun here at Chez Meliss. Without spoilers, I’ll say that Hiro’s arc is going to be vastly entertaining, if a bit predictable, and I’m looking forward to finding out more about Maya and Alejandro.

I also caught Marie Osmond’s foxtrot on Dancing with the Stars, which is not among the shows we generally watch, and I have to say, I didn’t know it was possible to make an sequined gown look frumpy, but somehow she managed it. Also, there comes a point when playing the adorable card ceases to work. She’s reached it. I didn’t see any of the other performances, so this is likely the first and last comment about this show I’ll ever make.

We’re recording the pilot of Journeyman which Fuzzy compared to Quantum Leap but I think is more closely related to Seven Days. It’s on now but I’m not really paying attention to it.

I’m looking forward to new seasons of House and ER, the latter of which I continue to watch mainly because at this point I’ve invested so many hours in it it seems silly to stop. Also, I like Stanley Tucci.

And tomorrow, we might – might – be getting UVerse installed.
(I say “might” because we put in an order under my name, were told it was corrupted, had to cancel it, and reorder under Fuzzy’s name, and then today got a call confirming the original install date. Ah, well, if not tomorrow, next Tuesday.)

And on that note, laundry’s calling.


I was just turned on to this really cool new website, built on the Drupal platform, and still in beta, where the followers of froufrou can share links and reviews of cool stores, restaurants, events, and bargains in their cities, with other like-minded shopaholics, and It-Girl wannabes.

It’s called HerFabLife, and it’s accepting submissions from bloggers, freelance writers, and citizen fashionistas around the country. If you are among the first to find that perfect new boutique, cafe, or shoe sale; if you are on the guest list for every intimate concert, or blockbuster event – or even if you merely want to be – this is the site for you.

I noticed that – at least right now – most of the submissions are from New York, Washington, DC, and San Francisco, but I’m sure as the site comes out of beta, and word of mouth increases the exposure, that will change. I also noticed that they have categories not just for clothes and shoes, bars and restaurants, but also bookstores.

I am always on the look for funky bookstores.

The site itself is flirty and friendly, with a very pink overtone (so you can see why it appeals to me), and though there’s no denying it’s chick-centered, there is a “for him” section for the guys in our lives.

My verdict? HerFabLife is simply fabulous, but don’t take my world for it. Click the link, and check it out for yourself:

In Memoriam: Marcel Marceau

What sculptors do is represent the essence of gesture. What is important in mime is attitude.

I’d never heard of Marcel Marceau before 1982. Granted, when I was finally introduced to his work, I was all of eleven-on-the-cusp-of-twelve, rebellious, snarky, moody. A typical tween-ager.

My introduction to mime had come years earlier, performance artists on television. As cheesy as The Donny and Marie Show was, they had some interesting guests from time to time. Mumenschantz, for example. What other mainstream talk show would spotlight art like that? Okay, Letterman did it, but he was late-night, so it doesn’t count.

The venue was Cal – U.C. Berkeley to the rest of the world – the night was cold and dark. February in the bay area is not balmy or warm. Northern California doesn’t get more than a quarter inch of snow about once every six years, but winter is still pretty chilly. The event: my mother’s first date with the man who would eventually be my step-father.

I didn’t want to go, didn’t want to spend an evening with this weird old guy and his son (roughly my age, also present.) I wanted to stay home and watch my favorite tv-show and have popcorn, and read a book. I lost the battle, so I went determined to have a horrible time.

My future step-brother, who professed to love mime, fell asleep half way through.
I was riveted. Oh, some of the satire was over my head, but for the most part Marcel puts on an entrancing show. Not just glass-box mime, the way annoying buskers do, but vivid portrayals of specific characters.

I loved it.
But I couldn’t admit it.
Not til now.

(Shh. Don’t tell anyone.)

Twenty-five years later, I still have an appreciation for mime, but, as I just posted in a thread about Marceau on the CSz boards, appreciation does not equal skill. I suck at mime. I dread having to do mime. I can tell at a glance if a couch, table, and chair will fit within a room in the configuration I think would work, but when I try to apply spatial relations to myself, it is decidedly awful.

(I’m working on it.)

Mime and writing share the connection of telling stories without sound. Yes, writing used words, but those words must describe place, and placement. Mime tells stories, and has place and placement but must convey thoughts without language. But all art is connected, all forms are about getting to the heart of something, to the kernel of truth that makes comedy universal, mime amazing, and a story about drinking espresso on Mars just as plausible as drinking espresso in Berkeley.

Marcel Marceau died yesterday.
He was 84.
He was amazing.

I left that auditorium with an appreciation for mime, and for Marceau.

Appreciation for my step-father came much later.

To communicate through silence is a link between the thoughts of man.


CNN’s story is here.

Sunday Scribblings: Hi, My Name Is…

Hi, my name is MissMeliss and I’m writing a book. No, too cute. Better use my real name. Hi, I’m Melissa and I’m writing a book. *sigh* My real name is frumpy and dull, and doesn’t have the energy I need to make myself believe in this book-thing. Sorry Mom. I tried to change it once when I was nine – do you remember? I said I hated my name, and wanted to be “Kate,” because it was pert and upbeat and kind of spunky.

You humored me, and let me be “Kate” for about three hours, before I realized I didn’t really want to be “Kate,” after all. It didn’t fit. But it was sort of fun to try on her skin for a bit. I kept Kate’s attitude, except she’s now called Marin (yes, like the county) and she’s in my book.

The one I’m writing. The one that takes a bunch of cafe vignettes and braids them together with a connected story, and that is really amazing in my head, but that I keep putting off working on because I’m scared. What if it sucks and no one buys it. Except. I don’t think it sucks. It’s less than fine literature and more than chick-lit, but I’m pretty sure my writing isn’t completely suckful. I mean, I get paid to sling words together that are far less interesting than this book, so that’s got to be a sign, right? I think I’m afraid of finishing it. Of selling it. I hate the selling process.

Could someone just lock me up in a room and make me write for three hours a day? Could someone feed the dogs and Fuzzy and bring me coffee and bagels with sun-dried tomato cream cheese and chocolate croissants that are warm enough for the chocolate inside to be melty, while they’re at it?

Firefox thinks “melty” isn’t a word. Firefox does not get to decide these things. In my universe, “melty” is a perfectly fine word. It isn’t quite “melted” like molten cheese, and it’s not all sticky and tacky like something that is “gooey” but it’s warm and kind of squishy and malleable.

See, I can use “malleable” and “melty” in the same sentence and the universe won’t blow up, or anything.

Hi, my name is Annie M. Klein. No, it really isn’t. But I used that as a pen name when I was ten, I think. It’s a re-distribution of some of the elements of my given name. The one my mother gave me. All of it. Pen names are important when you’re ten. And I’ve always used my middle initial. I like it. It sort of balances the first and last name, and makes things more official. I feel sad for people who don’t have middle names.

Hi, I’m Melissa A. Bartell, I’m a writer. Am I? Am I a writer, or am I just a hack? And why do I sometimes feel guilty for changing my last name when I got married? Fuzzy’s last name is so much easier to spell, and it symbolized a new beginning, a new adventure. I didn’t do it because I HAD to, or was EXPECTED to. Part of me still feels like I lost some street cred when I did it, though. As if I ever had any.

Hi, I’m MissMeliss.
I’m thirty-seven, but the guys in the improv troupe I’m part of think I’m much younger.
I’m five feet tall. Exactly.
I have brown hair with pink highlights. A LOT of pink highlights. I think my hair is about 75% pink now. Like a raspberry mocha.
The picture of the woman with the pink hair I use in my profiles? The face is me, the hair’s a wig. My stylist won’t let me go quite that pink, and frankly, she’s right not to. The highlights…they’re better.

A touch of pink. A dash of spunk. A lot of words and music, pens and ink, dark chocolate, designer coffee, red wine, and rare meat.

That’s me.

Blogger, singer, improviser, voracious reader, cellist, vampire fiction fan, cook, dog owner, collector of shoes and hats, friend, daughter, lover, wife, writer.


Scribble some words of your own, or read others here.

Alliterative Saturday: 0709.22

For those of you just tuning in, Alliterative Saturday is when I use alliteration as a jumping-off point for sharing the highlights of my week.

Autumn: It’s here, it’s here! Finally officially here! I always feel as if season changes should come with some sort of fanfare, with trumpets blaring, bells ringing and children singing silly songs. Instead, I will settle for the fact that even if the thermometer says it’s 91 degrees today, there’s a distinctly autumnal tone to the sun’s warmth. If it’s possible for there to be a “cool 91” as opposed to a “hot 91” (sort of like a long cup of milk) we have the former.

Apples: We bought Braeburns at the grocery store when we went shopping on Monday night, and last night I had one with some very sharp cheddar. Bliss in every bite. There’s something so perfect about the combination of crisp, sweet-tart apple and sharp, smooth cheddar. The dogs shared the snack and they agree.

Audio: I received in the mail a sample CD of “Mozart’s Greatest Hits,” with a little booklet of liner notes. Part of me thinks this is stupid and kitschy, but the other part thinks it’s quite a clever way to get classical music more exposure.

Artichokes: At that same afore-mentioned grocery store trip, I bought an artichoke. I love them, and almost never have them. I had to tell the cashier what it was, and he looked at it, and looked at me, then back at it, and his next words took my voice away. “I always thought,” he said, “that an artichoke was a kind of fish.”

Amusement: My writing companion for the past week has been one Nicholas Knight, vampire cop, as personified by Geraint Wyn Davies. I was a fan of the show Forever Knight when it was originally on over a decade ago, and we bought the first season DVD last year, but I wasn’t really in the mood for it. Right now, I am, because I like the accents, and it’s familiar enough that I can write to it, but I’ve finished season one, so now need to acquire seasons two and three, which are both out.

Angel: And speaking of DVDs, the box set of Angel is being released at the end of October.