My Husband’s Gray Hair

My husband turned 30 last week and he just found a gray hair in his beard. He was distinctly unimpressed (possibly closer to depressed) but I was excited because I’m all about that salt-and-pepper look–even if he’s currently all pepper (minus 1), or more like paprika because his beard is weirdly red (weird considering how dark his head-hair is). Another thing I don’t complain about.

Basically, I like looking at my husband.

So I missed posting on his birthday about his birthday. He’s the big 3-0, and it’s a little crazy to think he’s been alive for three whole decades. I remember when thirty was so old but now it feels like thirty is when life just starts to really begin. I’m sure I’ll have a lot more philosophical thoughts surrounding turning the dirty thirty when my birthday rolls around near the end of the year, but for now, I just wanted to publicly say a belated happiest of birthdays to my handsome, barely gray-haired man. I’m super proud of all you’ve accomplished this year, and really looking forward to what your thirties will entail!

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…And her nose stuck in a book

The other night after a (very) happy hour and dinner with my husband, we stopped at our local bookstore so I could run my fingers over spines and stare, starry-eyed, at all the lovely stories I’ve yet to read, and imagine *one day* my book joining them. They had a bunch of signed copies of several books by authors I love, so I decided to buy one (because it’s the next best thing to having it autographed for me, personally). My husband held it for me as I continued to drift around, admiring the beautiful journals and St. Louis-themed children’s books, until next thing I knew, he’d bought it for me.

This seems silly writing it out, because we’re married and what’s his is mine and vice versa (he even said that as he was paying), but there’s something so magical about being gifted a book, even if it’s paid for with the same account that my money goes into. I hugged the book to my chest the entire walk home. Naturally (because, St. Louis), someone sitting outside eating ice cream spotted me carrying my new book like a precious baby and asked what book it was, so I got to make a new friend (read: admit to a stranger I had almost no idea what the book was about but it’s signed by Ally Condie and the MC’s last name is the same as my #1 fiction love’s, so I figured I’d give it a chance, and it might be about pirates?). That’s around the time I *noticed* I was still carrying the book like I was Belle from the beginning of Beauty and the Beast which of course prompted me to sing the line “and her nose stuck in a book” all the way home no matter how many times my husband sarcastically complimented my excellent singing.

In case you’re curious, the book I purchased is The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie. She wrote the Matched series, as well as an interesting, quasi-mermaid tale Atlantia that was really good.

How a Writing Community Helped Me Understand “The Bachelor”

It occurred to me the other day how similar my life is to a season of The Bachelor. Okay, it isn’t really, but just bear with me. I’m part of this online writing community called Scribophile, where we upload chapters of our works-in-progress, and read and critique each others’ works. It’s amazing and encouraging and so so helpful.

But. Sometimes I feel a little guilty about how long it takes me to return a critique. I get wrapped up in some stories and just want to keep reading them, other relationships be damned!, but I try to be fair about returning the attention I receive. If someone takes the time to offer me feedback on a chapter, I want to show my appreciation by offering the same. Also, there are several stories I’m really into–not just one. I’ve established critique relationships with a bunch of people and enjoy the dialogue we maintain about our works on a regular basis, so I feel like I’m missing a friend when we go too long without conversing.

So anyway, I was chatting with one friend about his story and thinking about how I want to just charge ahead and finish his book so we can have a full, big-picture type discussion (and because I’m very excited for the developments I know are coming up because I totally peeked ahead–don’t tell my mom, I hate it when she does this!). Meanwhile, I have the first chapter of a whole new story/crit-relationship pulled up to start on, and I got this irrational thought that it was almost like cheating on his story, because I felt so excited about this new one. And that’s crazy, because loving a new story doesn’t make previously-read stories any less loved (I’ve got several bookshelves of proof).

Maybe it’s because The Bachelorette recently started its newest season, but my mind instantly went to the show, and how one person seems to genuinely enjoy her time with every guy when it’s his turn. It’s always seemed odd to me, like can she really be so *into* this one when she was just laughing so hard with that one?

Obviously this is a very different scenario. I’m just saying that I see now how something can be absorbing and delightful and take up a person’s full attention, only for the same to be true of something similar (and yet, completely different).

Blinding the Entire Ozarks

Life update: my husband graduated business school last weekend! To celebrate/because we were invited to crash a friend’s family’s Memorial Day celebration, we’re heading out to the Ozarks this upcoming weekend. That is, unless the hubs needs to stay away an extra week. He’s currently interviewing and/or meeting with 4 different companies in D.C. this week, still looking for that elusive post-grad job (side note: if anybody’s looking for a fresh MBA in the real estate field, hook a sister (‘s husband) up!!).

Because of this–the Ozarks, not the job thing–I’m currently working on edits to my book while sitting in front of a very sunny window (really, it’s because I’m a house cat). But I read on the Google that it *is* possible to get tanned/sunburnt through a window (yeah yeah, with extreme exposure, whatever), so I’m hoping this will help keep me from blinding the entire Ozarks with my winter-legs upon arrival.

Exciting News!

I’ve launched my writing website! 🙂 I started it as a blog a while ago when I was *very* excited about a *very* different story, but didn’t do much with it and turned my (admittedly sporadic) attention here instead. I’m hoping to be much better at keeping up the writing site with regular postings (I’m aiming for once a week, we’ll see how it goes) and plan to shift this site away from documenting writing-related updates (since I need *something* for that other site 😉 ). That being said, my first big “share” on the site is a piece of flash fiction from the world of Blood and Water, the book I’ve been working on all year. It’s set well before the actual story takes place, but gives a glimpse into my main character (Solvi)’s childhood.

If you feel like checking it out, it’ll drop *today* at annieatkinstories.com. I plan to share a few more “side stories” to drum up some interest, so if you do check them out, please be sure to leave a comment letting me know what you think–good or bad! I’m very curious to see if the story works without knowing any of the characters yet…everyone who’s read them so far already knows the characters almost as well as I do. 🙂 I’ll also share things like more writing playlists, and I’m sure I’ll have a few more random thoughts on writing to share as well.

36 Hours in St. Louis

Hey everyone! This post has been a long time coming–both in that I’ve fallen behind in my secret commitment to get a couple posts out each week, and in terms of the topic: St. Louis!

My in-laws sent us an article recently about where to go during a 36-hour trip to St. Louis. It was *full* of tourist-traps, pricey restaurants, and odd recommendations. It really didn’t capture my St. Louis at all. So I figured, why not write my own?

Why haven’t I written this yet??

So, thirty-six hours is a little tough. There’s *so much* to potentially do, and a day and a half barely cuts it. You’ll have to skip the ballgame–though a 48+ hour trip during baseball season has to include a trip to Ballpark Village, which is just as fun as being in the stadium!

We’ll start with hotels. It obviously depends on price-point and location, but unless you have a legitimate reason for being *Downtown*, don’t stay there. If you’re a Four Seasons type, maybe opt for the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton instead, since there’s more going on in Clayton. If you want to be in “the city,” I’d recommend the Chase Park Plaza in the Central West End. It’s right across from Forest Park, walkable to a lot of great bars/restaurants, and has a really nice pool. Dogtown is another fun neighborhood to look at if you want to be close to a lot. Finally, the Moonrise Hotel in the Delmar Loop is a really funky hotel with a great rooftop bar.

When you get in Friday evening, you’ll be hungry, so I’ve got a few excellent dinner options depending on price point, vibe, and your level of patience.

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If you don’t mind potentially waiting for a table and fighting a crowd, Mission Taco is a hip, fun spot for some excellent tacos and margaritas. I’m partial to the one in Central West End, but I’ve had a great time at the one in Delmar, too. They’ve got a few more locations, all of which I’m sure are fantastic. I *love* the battered fish taco, the hot chicken taco, and the soft taco (which has ground Impossible burger “meat”, and is seriously SO delish). The tacos are pretty small, I usually get 3 or 4 so definitely be prepared to mix and match if you’re going the taco route (PS if you want to save this for a late-night snack, they have $2 tequila and tacos after 10pm). My husband loves the brah-rito, which has like French fries and stuff in it. Their house margarita is excellent, but they’ve got an extensive cocktail menu and some great local beers on tap.

Tacos not your thing? Prefer a nice, quiet sit-down meal and generous portions of Italian cuisine? Go ahead and make a reservation at Charlie Gitto’s. Located in the Italian neighborhood (the Hill), it’s one of our favorite date-night spots. The menu is a little pricey compared to most other spots on this list, but even saying that, the prices aren’t outrageous by any means. The chicken parm is my go-to, but really all their food is solid.

Want some low-key pub food? Dressel’s is the spot! You might recognize the name from my husband’s favorite burgers of St. Louis post–this is the burger he raved about to his (fellow-burger-loving) father. Dressel’s is a Welsh pub that feels like you’ve crossed the Atlantic when you step inside, and everything on their menu is fresh and yummy. The fish and chips portion is HUGE. I am *obsessed* with the grilled cheese and tomato soup. Their veggie burger is also really great. They have a rotating tap of local beers and some really fun cocktails, and the staff is so friendly.

Saturday can be as packed or as low-key as you’d like it to be.

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You’ve arrived in the Gateway to the Midwest, so if there’s one *tourist* thing to do, check out the Gateway Arch! The Arch grounds were recently redone, so there’s a really nice grassy area beneath it, as well as the museum. If you want to go up in the Arch for stunning views, you do need to book this in advance.

If you book your Arch trip early enough, you could swing by the Anheuser-Busch Brewery for a *free* tour of the St. Louis landmark–complete with a tasting of the freshest Budweiser/Bud Light you’ll ever drink, as well as a free 16oz pour at the completion of the tour. Depending on the time of year, you might even get to see the Clydesdales! These tours can fill up, so I’d recommend trying to go on the earlier side (tours start anywhere from 9am to 11am depending on the time of year–we start early in the Lou!).

Don’t think for a second I’ve forgotten about lunch! I’ve got not one but two excellent sandwich options for you: Blues City Deli in Benton Park or Gramophone in the Grove. I’m a big fan of the Mike’s Spicy Beef n Cheddar at Blues City, and the hubs loves the Alcatraz at Gramophone, but both spots have a great selection of interesting combinations to choose from. Be prepared to stand in line (out the door) at Blues City, but it does move fast. I will add a note around the locations: both are surrounded by areas that feel a little run-down, but don’t be daunted! The Grove is a really trendy spot that’s well-traveled during the day (and has a fun nightlife, but it can get a little dicier in the early-morning hours), and Blues City is in more of a residential area. A final note about Gramophone: if you’re in the Grove already, you might as well swing by U.R.B. (Urban Chestnut’s Research Brewery) to do a $1 sample survey–you get three good-sized samples of beers they’re testing out, and just have to fill out a survey about the notes/aromas/tastes that are present for you, and how likely you’d be to order a full pour. They also have pretty delish pizza if you prefer that to sandwiches! If burgers are more your thing, Mac’s Local Eats is *the* place. It’s been featured on the Travel channel, and the line can wrap around the bar, but again, it generally moves fairly quickly (though they will take the time to explain their menu in detail to every newcomer). If Mac himself is there, he usually buys a bucket of Busch beers for those waiting in line to enjoy. They’re all smash-burgers, so if you like a thick, juicy, red burger, Dressel’s is your spot. If you like thin, juicy patties smothered in cheese, Mac’s is everything. (It’s my favorite, I love the double classic with everything. The double pimento burger and the dirty sancho have received rave reviews from friends and loved ones as well). Insider tip: Mac’s is located *inside* Tamm Avenue Bar and Grill–other than a small sidewalk sign, it’s pretty well hidden if you’re not in the know. Head inside and follow the bar around to the window in the kitchen, where Mac or one of his team will take your order and get you squared away. There’s also a great (dog-friendly!) patio and an arcade in the back!

Ok, sorry about all that–you guys know I love food, right?–back to the “things to do”. If you want a quieter day, or just a break from adventure for the afternoon, head over to Forest Park and just wander the paths. We’re so fortunate to live across the street from one end of the park, and it’s one of our favorite places to just enjoy being outside. There are a lot of grassy areas or benches to just sit and read or contemplate life. Forest Park also has two golf courses, the St. Louis Zoo, and St. Louis Art Museum. Both are free admission, both are fun–though the Zoo is often *very* crowded. Art Hill itself is lovely, the Art Museum standing on a hill overlooking the Grand Basin (Instagram-worthy photo op!). If you’ve got kiddos to entertain (or feel like being a kid yourself), City Museum downtown is SO fun! It’s the only place on the list with an admission fee (other than the Arch tour), but with those $12 you get to climb through caverns, slide down a 10 story slide, and/or navigate a wire cage up to a suspended airplane.

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Any of the restaurants I’ve already listed would make great dinner options, too. If you’ve got a car and want to explore into the county, Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria in Rock Hill has great pasta, interesting pizza combinations, and fun cocktails. Alternatively, Stone Turtle in Dogtown is a nice, cozy spot for good drinks and typical American fare (it might sound odd, but I also had some fantastic crab cakes there once). Speaking of cocktails, if you love a good craft cocktail you have to check out Taste in the Central West End. They have three pages of classic cocktails to choose from, plus a rotating menu of seasonal inventions. Their french fries are also *amazing*.

I didn’t go into the *many* brewery options, but if you enjoy beer, you’ve come to the right city! I’ve posted about the key ones I’ve enjoyed in more detail, but I’d definitely recommend checking out 4 Hands, Urban Chestnut, 2nd Shift, Alpha, and/or Rockwell Beer Co.

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Sunday morning before you leave, get (early) brunch at Cafe Osage. They can get pretty busy, but it is worth the wait. The french toast is my favorite, hubs loves the pancakes, but seriously everything on the menu is great. One note, the scrambled eggs do come pretty runny so you have to ask for them to be cooked firm if that’s your preference. It’s located within Bowood Farms nurseryso you can enjoy the plants and cute trinkets while you wait for a table. They’ve also got a cat who stands sentry near the door.

As you can see, I had a really hard time paring down all the places I love in St. Louis to fit into this post. If you take nothing else away from this exceptionally long rambling, know that St. Louis has something for everyone!

You Know You’re a Writer When…

…you Google things like “how long to recover from a stab wound” and don’t realize it’s shady until you get a bunch of forum results urging you to go to the ER.

…you chow down on dinner as you research said stab wound and only realize that might be gross when Google decides to give you some image results.

…you’ve had just enough whiskey to find all of this very funny, but not quite enough to reassure yourself you’ll feel fine in the morning. (Pro tip: another couple sips and you won’t have to worry about that hangover until it wakes you up. BETTER pro tip: stop drinking immediately and switch to water.)

…someone says depending on what area is stabbed, it could result in loss of arm abduction and you don’t know if it’s the whiskey or a typo OR if you should be concerned about arms being abducted and the people who would mourn the loss of the opportunity for such an arm abduction.

…you start to think these last few points would fit better under a heading like “you might have had enough to drink if…” and decide to call it a night.

…you laugh at that last one because the night is a writer’s time to shine. Or at least tell herself she’s achieving her dreams as she neglects sleep and curses the job that takes up so many hours of daylight.