Thursday, December 03, 2015

NaNo reflections

Well, I did it. I wrote 50,000 words of a novel in November. Along with hundreds of thousands of other people--from those who have never written fiction before to professionals who've published a half-dozen successful novels. The idea is to write write write without self-editing as you go. I attempted NaNoWriMo last year and got just past half way. I had an idea but it wasn't real well-formed and the free-writing strategy just wasn't for me; the story completely ran out of steam. At some point I'd like to go back and work on that story, but we'll see. Maybe next year. For 2015, I started outlining my NaNo novel in June. I formed an idea and had it mapped out to a pretty fine level of detail. Then on November 1 I started filling in the blanks. And it worked! I still have more of my story to write. I like my story. Some of the writing is just awful, but that's OK. I wrote FIFTY THOUSAND WORDS.

Will I finish writing this first draft? Yes. Will I pitch it to a publisher? Who knows. It would need a LOT of editing before that happened. But I learned a lot. And right now I feel like one of the most important things I've learned is that I *do* have time in my day to work on things that are important to me. My estimate is that those 1,667 words took about two-three hours of my time each day. If I can squeeze that writing in among my regular daily activities (which include sharing home-management and toddler-wrangling duties with my husband), I can devote time to a lot of other things I've been wanting to work on. I can keep working on my novel or other fiction projects, AND spend 10 minutes learning some Spanish AND take 15 minutes a day to practice the piano AND work on my hiking book. The arbitrary 50k goal and, in no small measure, the peer pressure from people in my writing group, made me buck up and put aside my excuses about how I "don't have time" for this or that. Clearly I do. I can't wait to see what I end up accomplishing with it.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

La Tejana Taqueria

I had never heard of Tinga before, but the three-word description was enough to get me to try it: "chicken, chipotle, chorizo." The dish was a bit different than I had expected, but I was far from disappointed.

I should pause for a moment to point out the this restaurant is pretty much in a liquor store. Same building, same register. It seems like they probably have some unusual tequilas, if you're interested in that sort of thing.

Anyway, Tinga. They serve it with tortilla, rice and beans, with a bit of cheese on top. You fork it into your tortilla, take a bite and basically you're in heaven. This may actually be my favorite meal of all the ones I've tried in the St. Louis area so far. 

And now that I know about Tinga, I am going to try to make it :-)

La Tejana also has the best guac we've had so far. Cilantro, lime, a bit of tomato, all perfectly balanced with some seriously legit avocados for November in Missouri.

Next up: Nachomamas

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Taqueria Durango

Sometimes when I go to a Mexican restaurant, or on an architecture walk, people say to me, "You're going to that neighborhood? Really?" So far I haven't been to any neighborhoods in the are that were really scary.

Taqueria Durango is in one of those neighborhoods that people think might be a problem. But there's a place called "Bargain Books" right next door, so it must be fine!

Anyway, they have yummy Mexican food there, and that's all that matters. There are three kinds of salsa in unlabled bottles on the table. One is green and hot, one is watery and red and vinegary, and one is red and really hot. All are pretty good. The guac is very good.

Taco, sope, guac.

Someone told me to get the sopes, so I got a sope and a taco. I don't normally get sopes, so maybe I'm not the best judge, but I wasn't crazy about my sope. The al pastor on the sope was excellent, though Nathan thought the al pastor in his burrito was a bit too fatty. Nathan enjoyed his burrito. Helen enjoyed the rice.

 It's no El Bronco, but it has potential. I'll be back.

Next up: La Tejana

In other news: Sieta Luminaria is closed. Tarahumara is there in its place.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

San Jose Mexican Restaurant

A year or so ago we lucked in to finding San Jose Mexican Restaurant in Crestwood. It's in a weird area across the street from a defunct shopping mall and practically in South County. But it's just about the best Mexican food we've had in St. Louis. 

Guadalajara Special, Nathan's favorite; pollo and chorizo.

We've been at least four times and every time it's been amazing. And it's close to our house!

Next up: Durango in North County.

Other future possibilities: La Tejana, Nachomamas (I've only been once), Mi Ranchito, Tortillaria (also only been once), and Flacos.

In other news, I should clarify that Hacienda on Manchester is terrible.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mission Taco (Soulard)

This week I had an errand to run in Soulard so I decided to visit Mission Taco. I'd been to this Mission Taco and the other location on Delmar once each. There's no real difference between the two, as far as I can tell.

Today I had three tacos: The monthly special,
a fish taco and a veggie taco, which was mostly portobello mushrooms.

Of these the veggie was my favorite. It's not exactly Mexican in it's flavor, but I'm a sucker for goat cheese.

closeup of the sweet potato carnitas taco
I was pretty underwhelmed with the taco of the month. It was fairly bland and something about the mix of sweet potato (which I normally love) and the cheese and meat didn't jibe. The fish taco was good, if standard.

Overall I always enjoy Mission Taco. Chips and salsa are very good, service is good, atmosphere is good. It's not super-authentic like the Cherokee Street places, but if you want some quality Mexican food it's hard to go wrong with Mission Taco.

Next week: Sieta Luminarias. I know I said that last time, but this time I really mean it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Taqueria El Bronco

We have a new favorite on Cherokee Street: Taqueria El Bronco.

I had the lunch special with a chili relleno and a taco. I chose pork. Because pork's my favorite. It was all amazing. Pork was flavorful and tender, and there was lots of cilantro. Guac? Excellent.

Next week: Siete Luminarias. Best-rendered pork in town? Yes, please.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


I've eaten at Tarahumara twice in the past couple months and both times I thought to myself, "I could make a whole meal out of this salsa." I don't know if it's just the fact that it contains chunks of avocado, but this salsa is mind-blowing.

Of course we actually ordered food and that was good, too. The menu is pretty limited, but that's OK, because the few items are amazing. I had a gorditas rojas and two beef tacos. The gorditas were my favorite.


My friend got chilaquiles, as my husband did last time. This review summarizes the dish nicely; in short, nachos taken to a new level of sublimity. 

The takeaway: everything is good and you should go and buy some lunch so they will stay in business!

Next week: Taqueria El Bronco!

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Mexican Food Tour: La Vallesana

Mexican food is not really a thing here. It kind of is, but apparently not enough Mexicans have settled in the St Louis region over the years to establish a strong Mexican food scene. This makes me sad, of course, because of how many years I spent living in California. BUT, being the bright-eyed optimist that I am, I will find the good Mexican food! I will!

Cherokee Street in South City is home to the highest concentration of Mexican restaurants in the region, so that is where we start, at the intersection of California Ave (no, really) and Cherokee, to be specific. There are at least six Mexican food establishments within a block of this intersection.

Today my two-year-old and I ate on the patio at La Vallesana. This is the second time I've eaten there. It's lovely, but I just can't get excited about it. The chips came with a red sauce and a green sauce, neither of which were too spicy. The service was prompt and very friendly. The guac was fresh and well-made. I ordered shrimp fajitas. The shrimp were fine and the veggies seemed fresh and nicely-cooked but were all just not super-flavorful.

I forgot to take pics of my food, but here's a pic of my cute dining companion and the remains of her quesadilla. 

Next week: Tarahumara! We went a couple weeks ago after we saw this review and were delighted.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Writing-related links

A collection of items that caught my eye recently...


Database of markets. Costs $50 a year; has a pretty handy feature for tracking your submissions.

Every Day Fiction

Like the Daily Science Fiction mailing list we talked about at the last meeting. Except...not sci fi...

I love this essay:
Susan Straight on learning to write without a room of one's own
Some believe they need seclusion and silence to be a 'real writer,' but a gas station, bedroom and parking lot all did the trick for this novelist.

This one, too:

Starting Again 

I do not love this, but it is awfully interesting:

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

If Hillary Wins

For starters, I will cry tears of joy, because it means my daughter will grow up not remembering a world where there had never been a female POTUS.

Second, people will start saying, Hey we have a woman in the White House, so sexism is over! Good job America! Except not. I can't see the future, but I'm guessing that violence against women, gender bias in academia, low rates of women in tech and management, street harassment, and belittling of women's achievements won't magically end when Hillary takes the oath.

Although, racism did totally end when Obama became president, so I could be wrong.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Least great game ever

The MLB network (aka Costasvision) has been running down its Top 20 greatest games of all time (it's actually the greatest games of the last 40 years, but whatever). Whoever made the selections did a pretty good job (Gibson homer, Fisk homer and 2001 WS are all on there) though there could have been more than one regular-season game (Sandberg game, anyone?).

But I have a serious beef with #7. If this list is supposed to showcase incredible skill and exciting play, it fails utterly here. What this showcases is inexcusably unprofessional behavior on the part of the Cubs and appalling mob mentality by the fans. First, Alou has a tantrum worthy of a four-year-old. The excerpt on the web site shows that but doesn't show Prior then falling apart and Gonzalez making an error that let the inning go on longer than it ever should have.

Alou post-tantrum 

Bob Costas is right (as always): Bartman shouldn't be famous; none of us should know his name. It goes without saying that the Chicago Sun Times shouldn't have published his workplace and home address (yes, that actually happened). So, shame on you, MLB, I say. And Bob, dear, I expect better from you.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Manic Monday

The Amy Pohler-Tina Fey monologue really is funny and worth watching. But the main takeaway from the Golden Globes is why am I so interested in Kate Mara and Kevin Spacey??? I hate it when "trending" shows me celeb dating crap.

I'm pretty pissed at the animal rights people right now for making everyone talk about Sarah Palin again.

Aaand, this happened, inspired by this nonsense and this other nonsense.