Musical Shenanigans

Hey guys, instead of a Town Line Tuesday this week I wanted to finally post something I’ve been struggling to finish for a while now about one of my all time favorite TV tropes—the musical episode (What’s not to love about watching your favorite characters spontaneously burst into song for seemingly no reason at all?)—I also want to try to post some flash fiction later this week and we’ll get back to our regularly scheduled Town Line Tuesday next week. Anyway, a few weeks ago one of my current TV show obsessions—SyFy’s The Magicians—came out with its version of the musical episode and it got me thinking about all of my favorite musical TV shenanigans. I thought about watching them all over again to see how The Magicians stacked up against them but including Magicians that’s seven hours I simply don’t have. Still, if I were to rate them from good to best, I think it would look something like this. (A/N: These are all the musical episodes I have seen—or at least all the ones I remember. Also, most of these are over a year old but since The Magicians is on this list I should warn you that this is in no way spoiler free so if you want to avoid spoilers stop reading now.)

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Baxter

Meet Baxter, my new fuzzy friend. Baxter and I have been hanging out for the past week while his mom and dad were out-of-town for their oldest daughter’s wedding. He’s a tiny little guy and even though in my experience the tinier the dog the more hyper they are, Baxter is probably the most laid-back dog I’ve ever met. He follows me around the house like a shadow with irresistible puppy-dog eyes, curls up with me on the couch and takes over the bed at night. He’s quieter and more cuddly than my cats. Smaller too.

Like my cats, Baxter has no idea how to play fetch. Apparently his idea of fetch is I throw the ball once, he chases after it, and then I chase him around the living room trying to get it back until I collapse from exhaustion. For one with such short legs he’s quite a speedy little fellow. Keeping up with him on walks has been a somewhat challenging exercise but has been great for clearing my head of all the noise my life seems to be filled with these days.

The past week has given me some much-needed alone time and I couldn’t have asked for a better companion in solitude than little Baxter, I’ll be sad to say goodbye tonight. Still, I’m ready to go home, see my cats (and my parents), and sleep in my own bed again.

The Search

 

One of my biggest goals since moving to Tennessee has been to seek out the best Mexican food Music City has to offer, a task that, as a California girl, I set upon with equal parts enthusiasm and trepidation (Pros: finding new places to eat is always fun. Cons: no offense to any Southerners reading this but I didn’t know what to expect from whatever passed for tacos in Nashville). I haven’t tried nearly as many places as I would like—I pretty much have to save my Mexican food adventures for whenever it’s just Mom and I—but I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty good sample size thus far.

 

Fogatas

Yelp has quickly become my best friend on this journey to find all the best restaurants my new home has to offer and when it comes to Mexican food I rely pretty much exclusively on the app to tell me which places are worth trying. When I came across Fogatas while scrolling through Yelp, I was quickly swayed by its four-star rating and almost-exclusively-good reviews that raved about the place. So Mom and I excitedly went to lunch… and were seriously disappointed. I ordered a lunch combo of a chicken enchilada and a chicken taco (don’t ask me to tell you what Mom had, I barely remember what I had for breakfast this morning—or for lunch a couple of months ago as the case may be—let alone what someone else had) and it was fine, I guess, it certainly wasn’t bad anyway but I don’t know it just kind of lacked flavor and considering I had just read these raving reviews it just didn’t live up to the hype. Now, this was at their newer location about a week or two after they had opened and many of the reviews referred to their original location so it’s possible that it was just a case of a new restaurant working out the kinks. Still, with so many places left on the never-ending list to try, it didn’t inspire any desire to try again any time soon.

 

Las Brisas

Las Brisas was not a Yelp find but a place that we found while driving and impulsively decided to try. Overall, it was a better experience than Fogatas, the chips and salsa were good and I ordered a combo of a chicken enchilada and a carne asada taco. Flavor-wise it was pretty good—better than Fogatas though not nearly as good as other places I’ve tried either in California or here in Nashville—however, the ridiculously small portion sizes ruined it for me. While it’s true that sometimes Mexican food—particularly sit-down (as opposed to fast/counter order) which is what Las Brisas is—can be almost too much food at times with large portion sizes of heavy carb-loaded food plus rice and beans plus the chips and salsa before the meal, but a single street taco and one tiny enchilada that was barely bigger than the street taco is just not enough food when you’re paying the same price you’d pay for a huge meal at another restaurant.

 

Bajo Sexto

When I visited Nashville a few months before I moved here, I found a small counter-order taco place called Bajo Sexto in downtown Nashville that looked and smelled amazing. Unfortunately, when I found it, it was five minutes before closing so I had to leave empty-handed. mouth-watering thoughts of street tacos plagued me for months before I finally had the opportunity to try Bajo Sexto. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have hyped the place up so much for myself. The pork in the carnitas street taco was completely unseasoned which was unfortunate but the chicken one had really good flavor and the chips and salsa were great. I’d definitely eat there again but I think if I’m looking for tacos in downtown Nashville I’d rather just go a couple blocks up the street to Bakersfield instead.

 

Pueblo Real

Pueblo Real, at least the location I went to, is one of those places that unless someone personally recommends it or it has really good yelp reviews you would probably never set foot in it. From the outside it looks like this tiny little hole-in-the-wall place located in one of the sketchier parts of town. Inside, however, the place is plenty clean and when I was there many of the booths were filled. Of the mid-range sit-down Mexican restaurants I’ve tried since being here, Pueblo Real is definitely my favorite. I had my usual first-visit order of a chicken enchilada and beef taco combo. The meat was well seasoned and the sauce on the enchilada was delicious. I haven’t had a chance to go back there yet—or tried their sister restaurant Tito’s—but I definitely plan to.

Oscars

Oscars Tacos has two locations near me: one bigger, newer-looking location that at least every time I’ve been there has been mostly empty and a smaller one that’s a lot farther out-of-the-way that is usually full of people. The farther one is significantly better than the bigger one, strange for a chain restaurant to be so different store-to-store but having eaten at the closer location twice I can say with absolute certainty that the longer drive and larger crowd is worth braving if you’re looking for quality tacos. Oscars Tacos is a fast-casual counter order restaurant that boasts “California-style” Mexican food. I haven’t had a chance to try any other counter order taco places other than Bajo Sexto in order to compare Oscars to other local options but on its own, Oscars is pretty good. I’ve had the carne asada and carnitas street tacos as well as the shredded beef crispy taco. I prefer the carne asada and beef tacos but the carnitas are good too. They’ve also got two different house-made hot sauces that go really well with the tacos. My biggest complaint is that they have Pepsi products—usually a deal-breaker in my book so it’s a good thing they’ve got fast, cheap, and tasty tacos.

Uncle Julio’s

Uncle Julios, on the fancier side of Mexican sit-down restaurants, was a birthday meal for my mom. The waitress told us that they were famous for their fajitas so rather than my usual enchilada/taco order I went with the “Carnitas Azteca” fajitas which were described as “savory braised pork with honey chipotle glaze, lima crema, and fresh cilantro.” While they weren’t necessarily the most Mexican tasting fajitas, they were fantastic. The combination of sweet and spicy is one of my favorite flavor combinations and these fajitas really delivered. Uncle Julio’s is also known for their chocolate piñata dessert, which we didn’t end up ordering but we did see it being served at several other tables. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a hollow ball of chocolate filled with fresh fruit and homemade churro pieces hanging from a little metal stand like a bunch of bananas that you break open with what looked like a wooden rolling-pin. Probably the most fun looking dessert I’ve ever seen at a restaurant.

 

Bakersfield

In downtown Nashville, a few blocks up from Bajo Sexto, Bakersfield is a small taco place that looks more like a nice bar than a restaurant. They serve street-style tacos a la carte on a metal pan and stand like you’d see at a pizza place. Easily the best tacos I’ve had since coming to Nashville. I ordered the “pollo rojo”, “al pastor”, and “cochinta pibil” tacos all of which had great flavor and quality meat and left me genuinely disappointed when I had finished and realized there weren’t any left. Both of their salsa options—a mild green citrus-y one and a medium heat smoky red one were fantastic as well. I wish Bakersfield weren’t so far from where I live; I’ve been craving it since almost the minute I left, although I supposed it’s a good thing for my wallet and my self-control that they aren’t super close by.

 

Overall, I feel like my search for quality Mexican food in Nashville has been surprisingly successful and I can’t wait to taste what else Music City has to offer.

Cats, Snow, and Bucket Lists

Snow in Nashville meant one thing: I finally got to cross “throw Rascal into a snow bank” off of my bucket list. Well, actually, we didn’t get enough snow to make a bank so I had to make do with “gently place cats on snow-covered grass.” Cats plural because I have three and Rascal isn’t the only one who got to experience the magic of snow this week.

Rascal

Rascal is my nine-year-old Siamese-Tabby mix. He is a big ol’ love bug, except when you scold him, then he back talks with more sass than a moody teenager. He’s pretty and he knows it, which is good because he’s not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed.

Hobbies include: lizard hunting, stealing people’s seats when they get up, watching people shower, seeing how far he can carry a Dixie cup full of water out of the bathroom before he spills it, and eating cookies (what we call cat treats).

Likes: cookies, back scratches, belly rubs, being told he’s pretty

Dislikes: Harley invading his room (AKA my room), people touching his tail, snow.

Snow: I’ve wanted to throw Rascal into a big pile of snow ever since I realized that his gorgeous fluffy white coat and huge paws with their extra-long toe hairs make him perfectly built to romp around in it. Unfortunately, my big dumb snow cat hates the snow. He squirmed and clung to me when I tried to put him down in it and when I finally did succeed in setting him down he immediately wanted to get back to the snow-less safety of the house. He is currently holding a major grudge toward us for subjecting him to the trauma of it to the point of looking seriously offended if we so much as ask him if he wants to go outside. Drama queen.

Harley

Harley is the baby of the family at seven years old. If you’re a person he’s a total sweetheart. If you’re a cat, he’s an asshole who likes to pick fights and steal your food. He’s the reason our cats’ food bowls look like something out of a science fiction movie.

Hobbies include: eating, bird watching, cuddling, sleeping by the fireplace, eating, playing with string, burrowing under blankets, and did I mention eating?

Likes: food, string, fireplaces, being picked up

Dislikes: children, car rides, not being fed promptly at 6 (am or pm)

Snow: Harley minded snow the least of the three. In fact, if he can still eat the grass underneath it, it might as well not even be there.

 

Shadow

At 15 years old, Shadow is a grouchy old man. To anyone who isn’t familiar with him, the noises he makes whenever anyone picks him up sound like he’s being tortured and mistreated. Truth is, he’ll scream and growl and errf till he’s blue in the face but he’d never hurt a fly and as soon as you put him down he might even be rubbing against your leg asking to be scratched. He’s just letting you know he’d rather be loved while his feet are firmly on the ground.

Hobbies include: sleeping, playing with toy mice, screaming till he gets what he wants, howling in the middle of the night.

Likes: face scratches, cookies, chicken, being brushed, water from the faucet

Dislikes: being picked up, closed doors, his cat carrier

Snow: Shadow had no interest in the snow. He wasn’t as freaked out by it as Rascal but he also really didn’t want anything to do with it or with going outside in this weather.

Christmas in Boston

Christmas Eve began with me bundled up in front of an Italian bakery at 7:30 in the morning with my mom and aunt, as we stood in line in the twenty-degree Massachusetts air waiting for the bakery to open so we could get some cannolis for the huge family dinner we were having later that night. It was my first Christmas in Nashville and I was spending it in Boston. My Mom, Dad, and I flew up the day before Christmas Eve to stay with my aunt and uncle for the holidays. I’d never been to Massachusetts before and I don’t think I’ve ever been so cold in my entire life; over the ten days we were there, there were times the temperature dropped below zero and I found myself fantasizing about the California sun. I was very glad we spent most of that time curled up in front of the fire watching movies and the Punisher Netflix series.

Still, as dreadful as the cold was, there was something magical about waking up on Christmas morning to snow lazily drifting down onto the winter wonderland that is my aunt and uncle’s backyard. That’s something I’ve never had in California: a white Christmas. I’ve got some vague memories of a Christmas or two spent up in Big Bear with my other aunt and uncle and that uncle’s parents many years ago but while there may have been snow on the ground I don’t think it actually snowed on Christmas day. Of course, spending Christmas somewhere I’ve never been before meant missing a couple of Christmas traditions this year. Stockings and Christmas presents—at least those given between my parents and I—were opened on the Friday before Christmas instead of Christmas morning. There was no homemade coffee cake—a staple in my house for the morning of every major holiday—on Christmas (or New Years) morning but my aunt did make potato casserole—another holiday tradition for my family—for the huge Christmas Eve dinner the night before. Instead of a big ham dinner on Christmas day we had homemade spaghetti with family members from my uncle’s side of the family—whom I had either never met or met when I was too young to remember meeting—and had the big ham dinner—complete with potato casserole and my uncle’s famous Jell-O casserole–with a bunch of that same part of the family on Christmas Eve instead. I missed my cats but did get to curl up with Roger, my aunt and uncle’s pit bull, on the couch a couple of times.

As different as it was from my usual Christmas, I loved getting to have the traditional White Christmas you see in movies and on TV and getting to spend it with family I don’t get to see very often and even meeting some family I’d never met before.

Dear Readers

Wow, so the whole “I’m pretty much recovered” from the cold thing was a huge lie apparently. I had about three days of feeling almost 100% better only to instantly get hit with five days of fever, chills, coughing and sneezing pretty much the second I hit publish on my last post. So that was fun. But, barring another whack over the head by the Flu Fairy, I should be getting back to a more regular posting schedule this week starting with a new Town Line Tuesday tomorrow.

Thank you for your patience,

Kelly Amber

Kelly Amber’s Top 5 TV Shows

Hi there! So last week I came down with a nasty cold and although I tried to keep up with my posts, trying to write while sick is a bit like herding cats where the cats are my creative ideas, cohesive thoughts, and motivation/creative energy; the moment I got one under control another one went running off in its own direction. But I’m pretty much recovered now so I thought I’d post something simple that would let you get to know me a little better. So without further ado, here are my top 5 favorite TV shows (most of these are off the air so I shouldn’t have to worry about spoilers but I’ll do my best to avoid them anyway)

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