writing stuff

Right now I’m working on my third novel, which doesn’t have a title yet. It’s Saturday night and I’m writing the seventh or eight chapter, out of order, because I haven’t written Chapters 2 through 6 yet. But I have a good feeling about this one, already. I’m excited, and I think y’all are gonna like it.

In January, y’all will be able to buy my second novel, Lone Star Legend. Actually, I have ARCs (Advance Reading Copies, for reviewers) right now, so email me if you’re any sort of book reviewer and would like a copy to review sometime in December or January. Just know that the ARCs have some wonky formatting issues that affect my OCD, but will be fixed in the real books, in January. :)

Aside from the very temporary wonky formatting issues, I think y’all are gonna like that one, too. Especially y’all who are familiar with the Internets and the things that go on there.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting for someone to re-design my author site so I can update with the events I’ll be doing later this year.

And, um… Also, I have another kids’ book coming out, called I Kick the Ball, but I’m not sure when, exactly. They said 2011 but I think it’s actually going to be 2010. I’m super-excited about that one, because it has a little boy for a protagonist, and as y’all can imagine, I have an affinity for little boys, seeing as how I gave birth to three of them. Also, they hired a really awesome illustrator for it, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it all comes out.

There are also a zillion other things going on, all good, that I’m not supposed to talk about yet. So I feel like I can’t ever really update y’all in a real way.

But… there is a moral to the story. The moral = hard work pays off. Hard work snowballs and makes you glad you started it.

knitting stuff

I’ve taken a few knitting classes over the past three or four weeks, so now I know how to knit, and I’m super-glad because I’ve wanted to knit all my adult life but never managed to teach myself….

and now I know how, and I’m making a scarf out of cheap acrylic, and next I’m going to make a more complex scarf out of expensive acrylic, and after that we’ll see what happens, but I have dreams, y’all.

I’m on this knitting social networky thing called Ravelry.com, and my name there is Gwentown, in case you want to friend me so I can look through your projects and steal your ideas.

other stuff

Other stuff is going really well, all considered. I have no complaints, y’all.

I started to type a big old status report on my three kids, but then I felt weird and deleted it. I always feel weird telling details of their lives, but especially so now that they’re teenagers. I mean, I have the mom blog on the Houston Chronicle, now, too… So I’ll angst about the privacy issues there, and tell y’all here that my kids are doing really well. :)

I keep saying “my husband this” and “my husband that,” and people think I’m trying to remind everyone that I’m a newlywed, but really it’s just that I’m used to saying “my boyfriend” and I’m trying to train myself out of it.

My husband is out at a concert with his friend right now. I’m at home working. Well, I’m supposed to be working, but instead I’m typing this blog entry. Shhhh….

this little girl

Today I was knitting in public (which I’ve heard people say is tacky, but I don’t understand how it’s tackier than, say, shopping for clothes in public, but I think it’s mostly British people who say it’s tacky, and I’m in America, so whatever). I was knitting in public — at the hair salon, actually, while my husband got his hair trimmed — and there was this little girl.

Not to be judgmental, but then again why not, so this little girl and her brother were getting simultaneously bitched at and ignored by their parents, if you can imagine that. You know how I mean? Their dad was feverishly typing on his phone, but keeping up a steady stream of “Chloe*, be good. Steven*, be quiet. Chloe, shut up. Steven, I’m gonna spank you if you don’t behave.” (*Not their real names.) He wasn’t even making eye contact with them — just telling them to shut up and behave. Then he’d haul them outside and buy them ice cream, then haul them back in and bitch at them, without looking at them, for eating the ice cream like children instead of like adults. All while reading his phone.

So I was thinking, “Wow, this dude really doesn’t enjoy having kids.” But I kept my eyes on my knitting.

At one point, the discontent dad hauled little Steven outside to spank him or buy him a candy, and little Chloe started circling me like a hawk, staring at my knitting. It cracked me up on the inside, the way she literally circled me to see the process from all angles, then walked up really, really close. She was maybe seven or eight years old.

“You ever seen anyone knit before?” I asked her, finally, when I could feel her breath on my hands.

She shook her head.

“That’s what I’m doing. Knitting,” I told her.

She ran around to my other side and sat next to me on the salon’s sofa. She said, “Are you sewing a blanket?”

I told her I was knitting a scarf. I unrolled the scarf for her to see, and showed her the knitting needles.

Her dad came back in and bitched at her to sit on the other side of the room.

Later, little Steven won his dad’s attention by emptying the water cooler onto the floor, and Chloe took the opportunity to squeeze onto the sofa between her dad and me.

“Knitting a scarf,” she said slowly, to no one.

I smiled in her direction.

She sidled over and asked, “Does the yarn break?”

“Chloe,” her dad said warningly. But I ignored him and answered her question. Tried to. It took a while to figure out that she thought the width of the scarf was due to me secretly cutting the yarn. So I showed her how the yarn folded into rows. While I did this, her dad took Steven and left again, apparently deciding I couldn’t kidnap a kid with knitting needles in my hands.

Chloe asked more questions and I tried to answer. I wished, then, that I had one of those little knitting kits for children, because she was so fascinated and so clever, I felt like she’d be a natural at it. You know? But I didn’t have one, and I stopped short of telling her to ask her father for one.

Then my husband’s hair was done and we got up to go. I turned to say goodbye to Chloe, but she was busy getting nagged at by her dad.

Maybe it’ll occur to him to buy her a knitting kit on his own. She can knit, then, while he plays with his phone.

Or maybe she’ll take a knitting class when she grows up.

fish in hot bean sauce

When I first met my husband, I didn’t think that people ate fish fins.

Now I know that it’s the best part of the fish to eat.

We went looking for this restaurant that my coworker Jennifer Y recommended. It didn’t have an English name, she’d told me. The Mandarin name was, phonetically in my mind, “Lao Di Fun.” She wrote down the characters for me and I put the piece of paper in my purse.

But today, after the haircut, I realized that I was carrying a different purse and had neglected to transfer the Mandarin-inscribed paper to it.

We decided to look for the restaurant, anyway. We went to the shopping center where we knew it to be. It was full of restaurants with Chinese characters all over the windows and glass doors. We found parking near the most likely looking one and went in. My husband, who is Chinese but doesn’t speak Mandarin, made me do the talking. (I’m not Chinese, and I don’t speak Mandarin, either, but I was the one who’d gotten the name first-hand from Jennifer Y.)

“What’s the name of y’all’s restaurant?” I asked the hostesses.

“Spicy Szechwuan,” they said, in heavily accented English.

“Um… What’s the real name, though? Does it have a Mandarin name?” I asked.

They told me. It wasn’t Lao Di Fun. A waiter joined them. He asked what I was looking for. I said, “Lao Di Fun?”

They said, “What?”

I said, more carefully, “Lao… Di… Fun.”

They couldn’t understand me. Then, after like fifteen minutes, one of them goes, “Wait — do you mean Lao Di Fun?”

I said yes. They said, “Oh, it’s next door.”

Next door, the same basic thing happened.
What’s the name of this place?
Classic Kitchen.
The real name?
[Something in Chinese.]
Do you know where Lao Di Fun is?
What? What’d you call my mama?
Lao… Di… Fun?
Oh! Lao Di Fun! It’s over there.

Next restaurant over, same thing happened.
Hello. Bamboo Dumpling House.
Lao Di Fun?
What in God’s name did you just say, Caucasian Woman?
Lao… Di… Fun?
Oh! Lao Di Fun is over there.

And again, and again, and by now y’all are realizing that Jennifer Y must have given this place a very strong recommendation, and that we must trust her opinion. Well, yes. That, plus my husband believed that a place without an American name on the door must be very authentic and therefore worth trying.

We went in a big circle, with the last waitress pointing back across the parking lot to the first restaurant we’d entered, before giving up and deciding to eat at Alias Spicy Szechwuan.

(I suspect that Alias Classic Kitchen was the real Lao Di Fun, but that they literally could not recognize their own restaurant’s name coming from my mouth.)

We got menus with several pages, but my husband suggested we focus on the House Specialties section. In that way, we ordered “Fish in hot bean sauce,” (but one-star mild, please), plus fried string beans with ground pork. The waitress directed us to the “appetizer bar,” where we selected marinated cucumber, marinated seaweed, and pan-fried pork rind for our three-appetizer plate.

While we waited, I ate all the seaweed and most of the cucumber. We each tried a piece of pork rind but didn’t try more than that. I looked around at the restaurant’s decor. It was nicer than the average hole-in-the-wall in that neighborhood, with a semi-typical red and black color scheme. They also had the requisite aquarium full of fish, all of them flat and pinkish and happy-looking. A group of Chinese women came in with one white guy, who talked very loudly about the girl among them who was his girlfriend and the fact that she spoke Chinese and Vietnamese and therefore “spied” for him at Vietnamese restaurants, and then said loud Cantonese words to the waitress, who smiled very politely as she walked away. Behind us, a baby ate rice from a yellow baby bowl her parents had presumably brought from home. When she was done, she proudly flung the bowl on the floor.

Then, finally, they brought our fish to us. Whole, on a giant plate, in a pool of spicy, oily red sauce. Damn, y’all, it looked good.

“Look at his little head,” I said. “It’s so round.” His face was all covered with sauce, and they’d been good enough to remove his eye, so I didn’t feel as bad as I otherwise might have.

My husband, who is very gentlemanly, filled my rice bowl with rice and put a piece of fish on top. I tasted it. “This is really freaking good,” I said.

“Yeah. It’s fresh,” my husband said.

“Yeah, it tastes fresh,” I said. “It’s all like, soft and stuff. Like it was never frozen.”

“It’s one of the ones from that tank, baby,” he told me.

I looked over at the tank full of pinkish fish. “Aw.”

I felt bad for, like, three seconds. Then I remembered that all those fish were going to die, anyway, so they could at least die making people happy. Right?

First we ate the flesh that didn’t have bones. Then we ate the flesh that did have bones, putting it in our mouths whole, eating around the bones and removing them with chopsticks. Then, we sucked the fins. Then, we spooned the fish-speckled sauce onto rice and ate that.

This is gonna sound crass, maybe, but one of the things I like about eating at Asian places is that I can relax my table manners a little and no one minds.

At one point, I was sucking on my fish fin and staring into space, experiencing the chili flakes and oil and vinegar and something mysteriously sweet, and the waitress walked by and caught my eye. “Good?” she asked.

I nodded. “It’s very good.”

We’ll find Lao Di Fun next time, maybe. I was glad we found this place this time, though, whatever its real name is.

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in culture, gluttony, Houston, married life, writing on 08/02/2009 04:06 am


  1. I remember being a little kid and talking to strangers in waiting rooms and how fun it was and how nice people were. Not that I was ignored/harassed like Cloe and Steven. I think being out on public transportation and in the city was good for me and its sad that my friends' kids are so strictly instructed not to talk to people they don't know, and really don't spend that much time out in the world anyway.

    Your Lao Di Fun story makes me so nostalgic for Seattle! My North City neighborhood was full of strip malls with all Chinese and Korean places and it was fun to try them all out, often communicating with the staff by mostly by pointing to menu items and using the smile/nod/thumbs-up to show how much I liked the food.

  2. Lao Di Fun story is hilarious. The fish is still bringing us all some joy through this story.

  3. Lao Di Fun story is hilarious. The fish is still bringing us all some joy through this story.

  4. Lao Di Fun story is hilarious. The fish is still bringing us all some joy through this story.

  5. That fish story reminds me of that old Chinese story that's sort of like Cinderella, but instead of various animals that help her out, it's a fish, which is the reincarnation of her mother, that helps her. The stepmother kills the fish, and then the bones of that same fish grants her wishes and magically provides her with food and a beautiful dress. The prince falls in love with her, yada yada.
    So yeah, not like you went and fell in love with a prince, but at least those bones tasted good in the sauce, even after all of the meat was gone. That's sort of the same thing, right? :)

    – Datty

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.