Best Nine of 2019

I love the trend of posting your best nine pics of a given year. Not only is it a chance to revisit some excellent memories and gather them all into one collage (remember making actual collages in the 90s, pasting together photos and stickers and ticket stubs? Am I dating myself?), but pulling together nine pictures from across a year reminds you just how blessed you are.

Maybe I’ve just had an extraordinarily *good* year. Maybe I’m just getting better at seeing the positives. Either way, this year I struggled to narrow down my 2019 experiences into nine thumbnail-sized shots. So what are blogs for, if not reminiscing?

At the beginning of the year, we got a perfect snow in St. Louis–enough to disrupt work for a day, not enough to put us on lockdown. One of the neighborhood restaurants opened its patio that night and provided free spiked hot chocolate/hot toddies around fire pits. Such a midwestern thing to do, and such spontaneous, snowy fun!

We also went to our first (and only) musical at the Fox Theatre while in the Lou. Fiddler on the Roof was every bit as magical as I remember it being when I watched it on VHS in middle school (moreso, since it was live, and I was old enough to appreciate what was going on in the story–I did NOT realize how dark it gets in Act II!).

Taking advantage of our location, we did a long weekend in the other Lou–touring bourbon distilleries, appreciating the baseball history, and visiting Churchill Downs. Louisville remains one of my favorite trips we’ve taken, and I can’t wait to visit again!

2019 saw the first newborn member inducted into the Olin Boys’ Club, as well as a whole host of get-togethers and adventures with our b-school buddies. These include Olin’s formal, graduation, and a trip to the Ozarks, to feature a few. The hubs turned 30, which we celebrated with bowling followed by a rooftop bar.

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We also enjoyed adult beverages in the street, because St. Louis.

We visited Chicago and continued an hour north to see Milwaukee (my favorite of the small cities we’ve visited since moving to St. Louis). We popped home in time to watch the Blues win the Stanley Cup. Then began our journey east.

After a pit stop in Indianapolis (and another, not-pictured, in Pittsburgh), we made it to our new home in DC. I worked on polishing my manuscript and query materials, and began seeking agent representation for my novel.

My brother visited during his (too) brief tour of the US before returning to Korea. I bravely (for me) explored DC on my own, between job-hunting and writing. And my in-laws (after at least 8 years of talking about it) *finally* bought a home in Old Town.

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We made it out to Rehoboth Beach, where we discovered we’re no longer used to the brilliance of a sun reflecting off ocean waves.

An agent responded to one of my queries, complimenting my writing sample and requesting more. I couldn’t stop smiling the entire walk home from our new favorite pizza place. My husband bought a car (unrelated, but almost as exciting for him).

Dear friends tied the knot. Others have growing families. I turned 30.

And celebrated with a parade. Okay, that was for the Nationals, since they won the World Series and all. I started a new job with a fun group of people. I watched so much Great British Baking Show that I was inspired…

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The challah that started it all!

I spent time with those adorable faces (and equally adorable sister- and brother-in-law, not pictured). I baked a lot more delicious stuff. Turns out, I’m a baker! #challahatyagirl

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As the year winds down, holiday parties are filling the calendar. Crazy to think there’s only a week left in 2019, and in the 2010s! What a decade it was. Here’s to the memories, friendships, and epic life changes!

And to 2020: No pressure. 😉

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).

Have a Great Day, Sister!

You know what I love? What just delights me down to my core? Women calling other women “sister” — especially when they aren’t sisters. Especially when they’re strangers. I was picking up something at a doctor’s office recently and the receptionist was like “you’re all set, sister!” and I immediately felt less weird about the special-lady-probiotics I needed to buy, because nothing says solidarity like recognizing we’re all ladies trying to keep our bodies healthy. And I started thinking about how often I overhear women speaking to each other like that, using endearing terms like “girl” and “girlfriend” and “sister” like we’re all best friends, and how beautiful that is. Because we should be best friends. We’re all just trying to figure out life and wanting to be valued by those around us.

So that’s my #womancrushwednesday: all the ladies who make other ladies feel welcome and appreciated just for being in the world.

Lou Brew Reviews: Rockwell Beer Co.

We’ve got a new brewery in town and guys, I almost don’t want to post this because it’s already too popular. They’ve seemed to explode onto the scene and I’m pretty impressed, because their start was not a hot one.

They opened last year, right before all the colleges went on winter break. Everyone was in a festive mood and looking to blow off steam at any number of festively-decorated atmospheres. In that respect, it’s a great time to open your doors if you’re a fledgling brewery trying to get your name out. EXCEPT. None of their beers were ready.

And it’s location is…edgy. By that I mean, it’s on the very edge of a neighborhood that is known for it’s fun bars and less-than-savory goings-on in the wee hours of the morning. So on the outskirts, it’s a little less “fun” and more “grunge.” Trekking the extra 5 minutes out there after dark in the middle of winter only to discover all the available beers are ones we could get at any of our already-established-as-favorite bars was disappointing and confusing. All it seemed to do was show off the “bad” location and a seemingly disorganized business.

Fast forward to the first *really* nice day of the year, everyone and their mother is feeling outdoorsy, which in St. Louis means drinking on a patio! Civil Life is my husband’s go-to suggestion for this, since they’ve got a nice beirgarten-type set up, but I recalled a very spacious patio at the new brewery, so I suggested we check out Rockwell again.

Also, I’d had their saison with dinner the night before, and it was delish! They’ve distributed their beers to a ton of local bars, which, as a strategy, more than makes up for the fact there were 0 beers to try at their grand opening.

All those people and their mothers had the same idea I did; both the patio and the indoor area of Rockwell were pretty busy when we arrived. We got there *just* in time, though, because we didn’t have to wait for our first beers, but when we went back for our second drink, the line was wrapped all through the indoor space. It moved fast, and all the beers I tried were pretty awesome, so I highly recommend checking them out–and not being put off by the long line.

I could be wrong, but I think their food is provided by Brasserie, which means it’s all fantastic. For beers, along with the saison (Fabricious), the hubs loved their Bizniss Ethics and I really liked the Passing Clouds. I’m a little disappointed in myself that I didn’t try the Oxford Llama just for the name–next time for sure!

Rambling Recommendations: Anne of Green Gables

I know, I know: What?? Annie, your favorite movie of all time is Anne of Green Gables. How are you only just now recommending the book?

I’ll tell you: So I’ve seen Anne of Green Gables more times than I can count. I’m talking the 1985 Sullivan Entertainment Anne of Green Gables (I adore the trilogy, but the first one is 100% my favorite movie that has or ever will exist). Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie will forever be the true Anne and Gilbert. And speaking of Gilbert, other girls can keep their Prince Charmings and their Mr. Darcies. Gilbert Blythe is the bar I measured my potential love interests against (fun side story: extremely early on in dating my husband, there was a day I kept pushing back our date to continue spending time with friends until one of them said something along the lines of ‘you can’t keep delaying, he’s going to get pissed’ and I just laughed and naturally as could be said he would “stand on his head if I asked him to!” which I knew to be 100% truthful, and recognized to be the same level of confidence Anne had in Gilbert’s affections and that’s how I knew I’d found my Gil).

Sometime around middle school, I picked up my mom’s copy of Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. I *maybe* read the first page or two before putting it down. It had been (and continues to be) my experience that the movie is never as good as the book. Already, I adored Megan Follows’s Anne Shirley with the core of my being. I simply couldn’t bear the thought that this book might tarnish in anyway the perfection of my favorite movie. What’s more, I didn’t want to read a book and think “that’s not how they did it in the movie” the entire time. I resigned myself to the idea of never reading the series in favor of cherishing the movies.

But then I was searching for the exact wording of one of my favorite quotes (Anne Shirley is the source of so many excellent ones), and noticed a Kindle special: the entire 8 book series for $0.99. Um WHAT. I figured it is time.

I told my mom it’s really nice that I’ve waited nearly 3 decades to read the book. Now, Anne and Gil, Matthew and Marilla, Mrs. Lynde and Diana Barry are all like dear friends, and as I began reading that first page, it felt like that’s all this was: a book about dear friends. Some things might be a little off, not quite what I *know* the truth to be, but an entertaining and rich view of those I love so much.

I’ve only finished book 1 so far, but it was rather delightful. Full disclosure: I skimmed over a lot of the setting exposition. But then, I already know what Green Gables looks like. 😉

Lou Brew Reviews: Alpha Brewing

Do you love sour beers?

If you said yes — perfect! If you said no…that’s fine, too.

Alpha Brewing in the Tower Grove (ish?) area is worth a visit no matter your beer preference. They are known for their sours — the Delphian is amazing, and the Guava Brett will pucker even the most sour-lover’s taste buds — but they’ve got several great IPA, Stout, and Blonde Ale options as well. And some super-fun names. You better believe I tried the Hop, Lock & Drop It, the Troll Wheatwine, and the Fyler Flyer (which gets harder — or easier? — to order the more you have!).

I also really like that they offer a range of pours, so you can create your own flight — and/or just enjoy a *very* small glass of your favorite if you happen to be a lightweight like me. They have your normal-sized pours as well, of course, but I like that I have options, especially if day-drinking.

Alpha also offers live music shows on Thursdays and Saturdays. Their food looked pretty good, though we did not partake — they even have a Vegan night for the non-meat-eaters out there.

Their website claims “It’s not for everyone” but seriously, I think it’s my favorite local brewery. It’s tucked back in a neighborhood near Grand Ave, just out of the way enough to be a hidden gem while close enough to merit an easy trip.

Just Shut Up Already

Do you know that feeling when you first meet someone who you just get? You love spending time together and getting to know more about them, and you just freaking adore them? Before you know it, your life is kind of taken over by this person. At first, that’s wonderful — the more of them, the better. But then it starts to wear on you, and you see their quirks for the flaws they are, and you want to roll your eyes every time they open their mouth and you start to feel like you if you have to hear one more time about how they will do anything to find their brother you will stab yourself in the freaking eye with a pen…

Sigh.

So that’s where I’m at in my edits…

I know my story is good. When I first finished, I daydreamed about my characters as if they belonged to some other book by some other author. I fell asleep writing my own fan-fiction, sending minor characters off on adventures that would never fit into the novel (but could find their way into a blog post eventually).

After three-plus read-throughs (and several scene rewrites), I am kind of sick of looking at this story. I have to keep reminding myself it is good. That it has the potential to find its way onto a bookstore shelf. Because right now, it feels like trash. Some of the pages of my manuscript look like a rainbow at best — a rotting, bloody corpse at worst — the black words crossed-through in red and scribbled-over in blue and annotated in green. I’ve reached a point where I’m not even sure my edits are constructive — what if I reduce all the magic to grammatical masterpieces and formulaic sentence structure?

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So I’m taking a break. A week off from Solvi and her quest to reunite her brother with their family. A week where I will over-indulge in the Bachelor in Paradise finale, obsess over fantasy football, and lose myself in someone else’s fictional world. I have a whole list of books on Amazon waiting to be experienced — so hopefully I’ll be able to toss up another book review or two on here soon.

And when I get back to her, hopefully Solvi will be a sympathetic, relatable character once again.