Writing and Stuff

I’ve been writing a lot lately, which is really great except that pretty much all my creative juices are going into my story and I have nothing left over for this blog. That makes me feel guilty, because this blog is a commitment to myself as much as it is entertainment for my readers, so I’m sorry for being a little more absent lately. It’s for a good cause.

I recently read Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis and it was really freaking good. So many of the chapters resonated with me, but the part that stuck with me the most was about how easily we tend to flake on ourselves. I really hate the idea of being seen as flaky — I used to have a problem saying no, then feeling really bad when I had to cancel last minute. Now, I’ve learned to only agree to things I’m confident I can see through, and to be honest with myself and my friends if I can’t manage something, whether physically or mentally. Still, when it comes to making commitments to myself, I flake all the time. It’s as if I don’t matter to myself as much as literally anyone else — and that’s something else I’m becoming more aware of. I need to value myself and my time.

Another thing she said — which I’ve written out and taped to the ceiling over my bed — is that no one else has power over your dreams. Only you can decide to give up. And, in case her readers still need to hear it from someone else, Rachel says “You do not have permission to give up on your dreams!”

Writing is hard and exhausting and exhilarating. This time, when I sat down, I looked at why I keep giving up sporadically. I am 100% an editor-writer. I struggle with getting a first full draft written because I constantly reread what I’ve already written and tweak and change and start again. This time, I refused to do that.

This time, I start writing around where I left off the day before. If I don’t remember for sure where that is, I’ll jot a brief summary of what I think that last scene was before jumping in. If I can’t think of a name or term, I write (X) and keep moving. If I can’t think of anything amazing, I will write what literally needs to happen.

He says something else that makes me laugh, and I feel a little better.

When I *finally* get to turn my editor brain on (draft 2, and not before), I will have so much fun re-imagining the scene over and over until I know exactly what he says that makes the character laugh, and I’ll be able to show her feeling better about their situation. For now, I’m writing a first draft full of placeholders.

It’s the only way I know how to get to the end of a fully formed book. In the past, I’ve left bullet points or synopses before moving on, but to me, that doesn’t count as finished. This way, the story may be full of shoddy writing, but it will be a fully formed story nonetheless.

So that’s what I’m up to. I’ll try to get a few more posts in here and there, but for the most part, I’m committing to the characters I’ve been following around for almost five years now. I owe it to them — to me — to get a full version of their story on paper.

Advertisements

Lou Brew Reviews: Schlafly Tap Room

Yesterday I took the VIP tour at Schlafly’s Tap Room — my husband got us tickets through the Beer and Wine Club at his grad school and it includes free tastings so YES PLEASE — and it was awesome.


Firstly, I’ve been to the Tap Room one other time (Stout and Oyster Festival), but I didn’t realize just how big the place is. There is a LOT of seating through several rooms. We got to go behind the windows into the room where the giant vats are (wearing safety goggles, of course), and then down into the basement where the real magic happens.

AJ was a pretty great tour guide. He was informative and clearly very passionate about craft beer. He mentioned a beer class he also gives, which I’d love to check out. Just based on his enthusiasm, I’m going to go ahead and recommend both the tour and the class.

The tasting was really fun. My husband is *obsessed* with Schlafly’s Kentucky Mule, which was one of the options during the tasting, so all his buddies got to sample and see why he isn’t crazy for talking it up so much. I also tried the Scotch Ale, which is ale aged in scotch barrels. It was really smoky, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing (I vaguely remember telling people it tasted like the chicken taco I’d had earlier — still not a bad thing). I also had the Gruit, which was a delicious and refreshing sour (probably my favorite of the tasting), and one other from a bottle with a kind of shiny label whose name I can’t remember. Also, on the tour I had a (plastic) glass of the Pale Ale, which as I’ve said before, makes me so happy that I magically enjoy Pale Ales now.


P.S. My husband bought two bottles of the Kentucky Mule (they come in like wine-bottle size and are also I think 12% ABV?). I’m pretty sure he tried to say one of them was for one of his buddies, but we ended up bringing both home with us so I think he just pulled a fast one on me. I wasn’t in the most observant state of mind by that point.

It was a fun night!

 

February Fashion: Part 2

To see where this started, check out this post.

The second half of this month, I’ve tried to be good about re-wearing pieces I love to maximize the number of outfits I can get out of them. I also tried to get a grip on the athleisure trend (why can I not figure out how to look uber-casually glam? probably because I try too hard)…that’s one I’m still working on.

Basically just outfits with leggings…

The weather has been a little crazy…going from 70s to 30s in the space of a day (sometimes in the space of a few hours). Virtually nothing was off-limits in my closet this month. Lightweight cardigans and ankle pants to heavy sweaters and knee-high boots, I’ve worn it all!

2/15-2/19 (minus the attempt at athleisure over the weekend)

While challenging, the crazy weather also made outfit planning more fun, forcing me to get a little more creative than usual.

2/20-2/25

Now for a couple of shameless plugs: most of my wardrobe comes from either ThredUp or Stitch Fix. Shop either site using those links and we both save some dollars! I love that I can find great prices for (gently used) quality clothing from ThredUp — most recently, that dusty pink sweater I’m obsessed with came from ThredUp for about $10. And Stitch Fix is a great service that helps me push my fashion boundaries and try new trends in pieces that are flattering on my body (that mustard shirt is one I never would have thought to try for myself). Look for my follow up post tomorrow with more details about each site!

 

2/26-2/28 — Not my favorites

 

Meatless Mondays (Everyday) 

We’ve been on a fairly meatless kick lately. Mostly because plant-based proteins are more easily accessible (we always have a stock of canned chickpeas, black beans, mushrooms, plus tons of frozen veggies), but we’ve also found we’re less lethargic and generally feel healthier on meatless meal nights.

img_0273
My chili mac with mushrooms instead of ground beef.

It’s also fun finding new recipes and cooking with ingredients I never have before. Like jackfruit. This magical fruit can replace pork or chicken in so many recipes. We find it in the canned veggies section of the grocery store. The first time I cooked it, I made barbecue sandwiches which turned out pretty good, though I’ll admit, the texture was a little too soft for my preference (kind of like an especially fatty portion of pulled pork).

img_0155
This week, my husband had the idea to try jackfruit enchiladas. I’d already found a recipe for jackfruit “crab” cakes (which I do still want to try) but enchiladas are one of my favorite dishes ever, so obviously that’s what we made.

img_0293-1
I really need to be better at plating and photographing BEFORE we dig in and demolish these dishes.

The recipe I based my enchiladas on came from Well Vegan, but since we aren’t actually vegan, I included a few heaping handfuls of real cheese and topped those babies off with a dollop of sour cream. We also used what we had on hand rather than running to the store for specific ingredients, but it still turned out really well.

img_0288
It really looks like it could be pulled chicken

This meal is pretty fantastic for any time you’re trying to incorporate a meatless dinner into your routine. It’s easy and delicious, and reheats pretty well the next day, too!

img_0292
Enchilada stuffing

Jackfruit Enchiladas

  • 1 can jackfruit, drained and rinsed
  • 3 medium-large cremini mushrooms, diced
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbs minced onion
  • 1/2 Tbs garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1 can red enchilada sauce
  • 6-7 flour tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • sour cream and diced avocado, for serving
  1. Prep the jackfruit: cut off the hard core and shred the stringy flesh into a bowl, removing the seeds. Blot with several layers of paper towel to remove excess moisture.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. In separate bowl, combine the mushrooms through 1/2 tsp chili powder. Set aside.
  4. Heat oil in large skillet over Medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute ~1 min.
  5. Stir in the jackfruit and remaining spices. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.
  6. Spread 1/2 the enchilada sauce along the bottom of a glass baking dish.
  7. Spoon the salsa mixture into the middle of a tortilla and top with a scoop of jackfruit. Roll up and place seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat until salsa and jackfruit mixtures are used up.
  8. Spread remaining enchilada sauce over tops of tortillas. Cover with shredded cheese.
  9. Bake 20-25 minutes, until sauce is bubbling and edges are crisped.
  10. Enjoy with avocado garnish (and sour cream, if desired).

Now, because we used flour tortillas instead of corn (and possibly because I really smothered them in cheese), our enchiladas were pretty soft — more like a smothered burrito. Still delicious, just not the texture I’m used to with enchiladas. They were still amazing!

February Fashion: Part 1

These were taken before February so don’t technically count for the month, but I like the outfits.

I’ve been pretty obsessed with fashion and style blogs lately. Enough to wish I had my own style blog, enough to know I most likely never will. I know myself well enough to accept that while I love putting together outfits that make me feel great, I don’t know enough to give other people advice about their own style. Also, I’m still trying to pull my own style out of a blending together of my very different style icons.

Beth (This is Us), Maggie (Grey’s), Jess (New Girl), Mandy (Last Man Standing), and Sabrina (The Mick) *Photos from Google*      (also, not pictured: my sister in law)

However, as sort of a creative challenge, I determined to try with every outfit this month (none of this just throwing on leggings and a t-shirt because it’s Saturday nonsense — not that there’s anything wrong with leggings and a tee, especially with the athleisure trend seemingly here to stay). It’s been fun putting together combinations I haven’t tried before, and I’ve found a few new “fave outfits” that just make me feel great.

2/3 – 2/7 (- 2/5 [no pic] + quick change for Date Night)
Of course, I was sick (like call-out-of-work, fuse-to-the-couch kind of sick) the first two days of February. Those days I did manage to at least change from PJs to leggings and a hoodie, but that was as far as I got.

2/8-2/10 (+ fundraiser event and polka dot details)

I’ve been jotting down ideas for each day, as well as noting the ones I really love (like both center pics above).
I’ve only run into one major dud (and I immediately changed), which is great, but this project is really about finding clothes and outfits I truly *love*. At the end of the month, I’ll highlight my favorites, which will also make dressing for work a lot easier, too!

2/11-2/14

The challenge has the added bonus of helping me clean out my closet of clothes I rarely wear or ones I learn I won’t wear again (which in turn makes room for new pieces to love!).

Our Sixth Month-iversary

I just reread my post after we’d been in Saint Louis for a month and kept thinking how adorable it was/we were. So bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and timid of our surroundings.

There is still SO much for us to do and explore and conquer, but damn have we gotten comfortable, too. We’ve found a neighborhood bar for football games in I-Tap, or Tom’s for trivia, awesome chicken tenders, and karaoke on the weekends. Oof, I’ll have to write a post (or several) about all the amazing food we’ve had.


I love Forest Park, even (especially?) the pathways that intimidated me at first, with the shadowed bridges and wooded trails. I have no fear wandering the park alone, or sending my husband to take his daily walks through the park or the neighborhood by himself. Sure, we’re aware of our surroundings, especially at night, but no more so than we were back in the DC area.


The Grove is also one of our favorite neighborhoods. It is home to my husband’s favorite sandwich spot: Gramophone (mention either the Grove or Gramophone to him and prepare to hear at length about the Alcatraz sandwich). It’s also the location of Urban Chestnut Brewery, which might be my favorite of the local breweries. I’ll probably put out a post about all the beer we’ve had since moving at some point, too.


My husband found his coffee shop in Kaldi’s Coffee in Demun — which is also his favorite residential neighborhood to wander through, enjoying the different houses. He’s also recently started using our French press to make coffee at home (that damn Crate & Barrel coffee maker gathering dust on the shelf in our front closet). With Whole Foods and Straubs Market each a block away, we’ve had no excuse not to cook at home most nights, and it’s encouraged us to try a lot of new recipes and cook with ingredients we just hadn’t before, like tofu and tilapia. Also, I’ve never been into seafood the way I have been here. It’s so weird, being landlocked, but the fish is flown in fresh daily to most places.

Blackened Tilapia Tacos

I could go on and on, and plan to be better at posting about our adventures and discoveries, but for now, let me just say: I freaking love Saint Louis. I love the Midwest, I love living in an urban setting with lush parks and nature steps away. Guys, there’s also NO TRAFFIC. It’s so easy to get to hiking trails, or the mall, or my office (20 min to go about the same miles), or Missouri wine country… There’s always some sort of festival or event going on, and most of the time it’s free. Seriously, everyone come visit. Or come stay. Six months in, and I’m not looking back.

Brewery Lights Tour

If I Can Be Honest

This year, I’m going to be more honest. This means if I take a picture that’s perfectly Instagram-worthy, I’m going to mention all the little tweaks and not-so-perfect behind the scenes details that got it there. This means I’m probably going to swear more, because as Tosca Lee once said about picturing her mom reading her writing, “even if I didn’t write it down, I’m thinking it anyway.” (hi, Mom). This means I’m not going to shy away from discussing my struggles when I feel led to do so, or pretend I’m healthier than I am, even if my husband calls it “dirty laundry.”

Because that’s the problem. We treat things like anxiety and mental illness as dirty laundry, something to be swept under the rug or shoved into a rarely-used closet. Ignore it until it goes away.

But it doesn’t go away.

When left unattended, it gets into the good liquor and has a party. It scribbles over the walls in permanent marker and TPs the neighbors’ yards.

And we smile and laugh and pretend like the chaos inside isn’t tearing us apart. Because otherwise, we might embarrass our loved ones. Otherwise, someone else might see the chinks in our seemingly perfect facade.

To be fair, my husband is often eerily good at navigating my darker days. He’s understanding and loving. He simply accepts it (without trying to “fix it”) when I tell him I’m having a rough day, or my chest aches, or I’m just not feeling well inside. He recognizes times I may overspend my spoons (side note: spoon theory is one of the best explanations for life with chronic illness I’ve ever read) and helps me better plan my days so I don’t exhaust myself too early. He encouraged me to seek professional help, which I cannot recommend enough if you are struggling with anything.

That’s something else that is so important to me: removing the stigma around counseling and therapy. It’s so beneficial to have an objective person to bounce ideas off of, and it is incredibly validating to have someone who spent years of their life studying mental processes tell you that you aren’t in fact crazy. My therapist took all my Google-search- and undergrad-psych-fueled fears, and refuted most — and better explained others. She helped me understand the anxieties I do have, and gave me a multitude of exercises to practice to better cope.

Seriously, talk to someone. Everyone could get something out of it.

Even if it’s the freedom of not feeling the need to censor oneself. That’s what this year is about for me: freedom from hiding who I really am. Also, discovering who I really am. You know, now that I’m being honest.