Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Taco Tuesday: 9 Places to Get Tacos in Huntsville, Alabama

Y'all know how much I love tacos, but let me give you a back story. Growing up, I was the pickiest eater in the world.  Tacos were my LEAST favorite food. I HATED them. Like, would-have-went-to-bed-starving-before-I-ate-them hated them.  At some point I loosened up a little and began to love tacos.  But, my kind of tacos were hard shell only (no soft tortillas, EVER), with a little cheese on the bottom, some meat on top of that to melt it, a little more cheese on top of the meat to melt, and taco sauce. That was it. And I thought they were the greatest thing ever! (Typing that out, I am slightly embarrassed).

Anyway, I moved to the Nashville area and began exploring the REAL world of tacos, and boy was I missing out! Y'all know how much I love a good street taco now. I once wondered what reminded people of me, and when four people shared taco-related links with me on Facebook all within less than a week, I figured it out! Tacos!

During my time in Huntsville, I made it a point to seek out some great taco places that I wanted to share!

1. Local Taco 4/5 ★

They also have this in Nashville!  I love the taco toppings here.  They're definitely a far cry from authentic tacos, but good nonetheless. Pictured is the Alabama white taco (smoked chicken, cole slaw, Alabama white sauce) and the Local Brisket taco (brisket, lettuce, pico).

2. Taqueria El Cazador 5/5 ★

I was really excited to find that El Cazador has a food truck pretty close to our house! The tacos are delicious AND inexpensive!  I always get the #1, which is four tacos for $5.  Thus far, I've tried the chicken, steak, and spicy pork and absolutely loved them all.  El Cazador also offers other Mexican entrees, but I can never stray away from the tacos! They also have like 4-5 different locations!

3. Straight to Ale Brewing 5/5 ★

Y'all, these are not "authentic" tacos AT ALL, but they're SO GOOD!  The tacos pictured are Jerk Chicken Tacos (chicken, cabbage slaw, queso blanco, avacado sauce, jerk sauce, cilantro), but they also have Kimche Pork tacos.  Straight to Ale is NOT a Mexican restaurant; it is a local brewery that offers a variety of beers brewed on site, as well as whiskey, gin, rum, and vodka that is distilled in-house.

4. Soho's Kitchen 4/5 ★

Soho's Kitchen expanded recently from a Mexican restaurant into a Mexican/Asian restaurant, which sounds kind of odd, but it totally works. They have three different types of tacos: street tacos (corn tortilla, meat, cilantro, cabbage, onion), SoHo tacos (corn tortilla, meat, carmelized onion, roasted poblano, queso, cilantro, secret sauce, chives) and fish tacos (fish or shrimp, spicy slaw, cilantro, mayo sriracha, corn tortilla), with a variety of meat choices including ham, chorizo, spicy pork, chicken, steak and mushrooms for the non-meateater.  They also offer wraps, soups, burritos, and specialty plates.  Its this tiny little drive through with a small picnic table out front, so while you can't get a sit-down meal here, its great for pick up on your way somewhere.  I tried the chipotle chicken street taco and the spicy pork SoHo taco, both of which were good!  The pork wasn't nearly as spicy as I would like, and it lacked a little in flavor, but the chipotle chicken was delicious!

(Edit: This business recently closed and is being opened up as another Taqueria El Cazador, but I wanted to share the review in case they do re-open as the same business elsewhere in Huntsville in the future.)

5. Fire & Spice 4/5 ★

Fire & Spice started out as a food truck, but now has a brick and mortar location in southeast Huntsville as well. A Tex-Mex restaurant, they serve a variety of tacos, burritos, and other entrees that combined Mexican style foods with Texan style flavors.  Since I went on National Taco Day, they offered a Taco Tuesday special of three mix-n-match tacos (which is also offered on Tuesdays).  I chose The Texan (pulled pork, hot sauce, cheesy, spicy slaw, and BBQ sour cream), an Original Gangsta (pulled pork, hot sauce, cheese, pico, and sour cream), and a Santa Fe (chicken, cheese, roasted corn salsa, roasted poblanos, red onions, and chipotle sauce).  Served with chips and verde salsa, and a Mexican coke, they were all delicious! I loved the spiciness of The Texan and the freshness of the corn salsa.  

6. Azteca Mexicana 2/5 ★

The food here was okay, but the service was not good. I tried three different tacos: chicken, steak, and chorizo. The steak one was good, but the other two were super dry, despite the amount of lime juice I squeezed on them. As we sat eating, we watched the waitresses take turns sitting in a booth with other people (not sure if they were friends or family or what) and play around on their phones, eat, and count tips. Our food was brought out individually over a period of roughly five minutes. I highly doubt I will ever return here.

7. Cantina Laredo 5/5 ★

Though it is a chain, this was my first time at a Cantina Laredo, and it is definitely a place that I will go back to!  I ordered the fajita taco with chicken, pico, cilantro, and an avacado sauce. Y'all these tortillas are amazing.  They're corn tortillas, but THEY DON'T FALL APART! Which means you only need one! There is nothing worse than a restaurant who doesn't double up their corn tortillas so you end up with a plate full of taco toppings because your taco fell apart. Tacos and tortillas aside, the rice was delicious too.  It is rare that I find a Mexican restaurant that doesn't have bland Spanish rice.  It was so good that I was super disappointed when my waiter brought me beans after I ordered extra rice instead.

8. Humphrey's Bar & Grill 4/5 ★

Though we were not impressed with the service here, the tacos were good!  Humphrey's offers a baja taco, containing either blackened fish (tilapia), chicken, shrimp, or pulled pork, with pico, sour cream, lettuce, queso, jalapenos, and pickled red onion.  The only downside with these tacos was that they're on flour tortillas, but that definitely comes down to personal preference.

9. Bandito Burrito 3/5 ★

The street tacos here were pretty average, and though I ordered four, two was plenty for me.  The price was on point, I think it was less than $5 for my four tacos and lemonade. They're located in an area that I probably wouldn't frequent during the night time, which made it even funnier that they had "Ghetto Grape Drank" as a drink option, and a photo of Ice Cube on their ice cube dispenser!

Monday, June 11, 2018

CMA Fest 2018

There is always so much going on during CMA Fest that I never come close to seeing and doing everything on my list!  I always try to make it a priority to see/meet artists that I haven't yet before, but I do have some favorites that I will skip everything for without a second thought.


Though CMA Fest doesn't officially start until the Thursday after the CMA Awards, there is plenty going on all week to get you in the country music mood.  From pop up concerts to corn hole challenges, you can keep busy all week long.

I chose to ease my way into the week with a free show at Marathon Music Works. Presented by the Pandora Backroads station, the concert featured Morgan Evans, Carly Pearce, and Brad Paisley.  Other sponsors were Ashley HomeStore®, Ball Park® Brand, Kingsford® Charcoal, Maytag®, Shutterfly, Inc and Twisted Tea®. Lady Antebellum was originally suppose to be there instead of Brad, but because of unforeseen circumstances they had a last minute change. Lady A is my favorite, so I was pretty bummed, but I will never complain about free drinks, free food, and free music! Especially when we were darn near close enough to touch the artists!

One piece of advice is to do your research before you show up.  For example, for this show you had to have your name on the RSVP list to get in, it wasn't just something you could show up to. Other events may include a ticket that you have to pay for.


To attend meet and greet sessions, you have to purchase one of the CMA Fest tickets so you can get into the Fan Fair where the meet and greets occur.  Some you have to enter a drawing to get into, but others are first come, first serve in the venue.

This year I got to meet a couple artists I hadn't met before...

...and some of my old favorites that I enjoy meeting time and time again!


Waiting in the hot sun is always worth it to see energetic performances in the country music capital during the biggest country music week of the year. That being said, I wasn't super thrilled with the line up this year.  I think part of it is that I'm getting to the point that I've seen most artists in concert, so its not as new and exciting and I wish it were (such problems, I know).  I ended up deciding not to attend on Saturday and Sunday for this reason. Since the free concerts run all day (roughly 10A-10P), it can be a really long day if you choose to attend for the full time.  I prefer just going during the morning/day so I can get front row to the artists at the Chevy Riverside and Breakout stages.  The nighttime concerts are either at the Ascend Amphitheater (free) or Nissan stadium (paid ticket) where you can't get all up close and personal.

Little Texas


I know CMA Fest is all about the music, but I'm a big fan of the food trucks as well! In fact, that was what I missed most on the days I didn't go (I made sure to go to the taco truck down the road instead!) Some of the food trucks are local to Nashville, but others come from all over the United States!

       Noble Brisket Taco (Smoke Et Al)                    Nashvegas Ice Cream (Fission)                        Fish Tacos (Bob's Fish Fry)

Now that CMA Fest is officially over, planning for next year begins! Have you been do CMA Fest before?

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

#gretchensbooks2018 - May

*This post contains affiliate links, which means when you purchase something through that link, you're helping support this blog!*

It has been a beautiful month for reading outside! I love sitting outside on the porch in the late afternoons relaxing with a book while Buddy lays beside me, trying to snap bugs out of the air like a frog.

That being said, I also NAILED IT with the audiobooks this month.  I found that some of the kindle books come with downloadable audiobooks for audible for NO EXTRA COST.

Audiobook hack: I (almost) always listen to my audiobooks on 1.25x speed. I find that 1.5x is usually too fast. I'm a fast reader anyway, so I find that speeding the reading up doesn't impact my comprehension, but it may if you're a slower reader. It doesn't shorten the listening time by too much, but I'm all about efficiency!

(Summaries are from Amazon, but all reviews are my own!)

34.  The Gender Game by Bella Forrest (4/5 ★)

A toxic river divides nineteen-year-old Violet Bates's world by gender. Women rule the East. Men rule the West. Welcome to the lands of Matrus and Patrus. Ever since the disappearance of her beloved younger brother, Violet's life has been consumed by an anger she struggles to control. Already a prisoner to her own nation, now she has been sentenced to death for her crimes. But one decision could save her life. To enter the kingdom of Patrus, where men rule and women submit. Everything about the patriarchy is dangerous for a rebellious girl like Violet. She cannot break the rules if she wishes to stay alive. But abiding by rules has never been her strong suit, and when she is thrust into more danger than she could have ever predicted, Violet is forced to sacrifice many things in the forbidden kingdom ... including forbidden love. In a world divided by gender, only the strongest survive..., 

I found these books listed as something readers of The Hunger Games might like, and I definitely agree! If you missed it in my last post, Kindle Unlimited is only $1.99 for three months for Amazon Prime users, and the whole Gender Game series is a part of this (which means you can read the whole series for only $1.99). 



35. The Gender Secret by Bella Forrest (4/5 ★)

Gliding over the treacherous Green in a shaky aircraft that she has no idea how to land, Violet Bates is still in shock. The harrowing events of the previous night play over in her mind as she asks herself question after question. Why did Lee Desmond Bertrand behave the way he did? What is the truth about the mysterious silver egg stowed beneath her seat? What happened to Viggo and where is her brother? Is either of them still alive? When Violet manages to reach the toxic ground alive, she has landed in a world of unimaginable danger. She has barely time to catch her breath before she is sucked into a perilous journey at breakneck speed - to uncover secrets guarded for centuries and find the only two people that matter.

36. The Gender Lie by Bella Forrest (3.5/5 ★)

"I'd want you to help me win a war...." After discovering the shocking secret buried deep within The Green, Violet has a grave decision to make. Trust the woman who saved her, or not? So far, everything about the woman has taken Violet by surprise. Her behavior has been honest and upfront - a refreshing change for Violet. Besides, with one of her loved ones hanging on life support and the other close to falling completely out of reach, Violet doesn't exactly have a lot of choice. Her only way forward is to embark on a dicey excursion. For this, she knows, she needs the Liberators' help - and must be prepared to take whatever risks that come with. But what neither she nor any of her new Liberator comrades can prepare for is just how deep the lies of their homelands run.... Continue Violet and Viggo's journey in the explosive third book of the best-selling The Gender Game series.

37. The Gender War by Bella Forrest (3.5/5 ★)

38. The Gender Fall by Bella Forrest (3.5/5 ★)

39. The Gender Plan by Bella Forrest (3.5/5 ★)

40. The Gender End by Bella Forrest (4/5 ★)

Overall, I enjoyed the series, but it was definitely too long.  Each book was roughly 400 pages and probably could have been shortened to half that and compacted into three or four books.  I would be interested to see this on screen as a Netflix series!

41. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (5/5 ★)

Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch—“Scout”—returns home to Maycomb, Alabama from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town, and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past—a journey that can only be guided by one’s own conscience.
Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of the late Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor, and effortless precision—a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context, and new meaning to an American classic.

I listened to this on audiobook and it was SO GOOD. You know when you read a book and after you finish, you just want to know what happens to the characters as they grow up? I felt like this book did that. It gave enough flashbacks into Scout and Jem's childhood, but also discussed Scout's life as a 20-something and the historical events that were taking place.  I started this right after listening to a podcast on Rosa Park from Stuff You Should Know which was kinda perfect! Also Reese Witherspoon narrates the audiobook, but I was unsure as to whether I would like, but she did a fabulous job!

42. If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer by O.J. Simpson (4/5 ★)

On July 31, 2007 Federal Court Judge A. Jay Cristol awarded the Goldman family the rights to If I Did It. Thus began one of the strangest odysseys in publishing history. The book, called “one of the most chilling things I have ever read” by Barbara Walters, skyrocketed up bestseller lists across the country in fall 2007 as the national media relentlessly covered O.J. Simpson’s dramatic Las Vegas arrest for armed robbery and kidnapping.
Originally written by O.J. Simpson, this edition includes essays by the Goldmans and a member of the Goldman family legal team that reveal the fascinating story behind the bankruptcy case, the book’s publication and the looming court proceedings, that would eventually lead to his conviction.
In 1994, Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson were brutally murdered at her home in Brentwood, California. O.J. Simpson was tried for the crime in a case that captured the attention of the American people, but was ultimately acquitted of criminal charges. The victims' families brought a civil case against Simpson, which found him liable for willfully and wrongfully causing the deaths of Ron and Nicole committing battery with malice and oppression. In 2006, HarperCollins announced the publication of a book in which O.J. Simpson told how he hypothetically would have committed the murders. In response to public outrage that Simpson stood to profit from these crimes, HarperCollins canceled the book.
The Goldman family views the book as his confession, and has worked hard to ensure that the public will read this book and learn the truth. This is O.J. Simpson's original manuscript, approved by him, with up to 14,000 words of additional key commentary.

This book was so good, but in a very creepy, eerie way.  I picked this book because though I knew OJ Simpson was acquitted for a murder in the 90s, I had no idea what the details were because I was only three years old when it happened.  This manuscript is a confession; there is no ifs, ands or buts about it.  I also enjoyed the commentary before and after the confession, er..."fictional story." I didn't know anything about the craziness the ensued over the publication of this book.  I read this whole thing in one night, so that tells you how immersing this story is.

43. Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott (2/5 ★)

Once upon a time, I was a little girl who disappeared.
Once upon a time, my name was not Alice.
Once upon a time, I didn't know how lucky I was.
When Alice was ten, Ray took her away from her family, her friends -- her life. She learned to give up all power, to endure all pain. She waited for the nightmare to be over. Now Alice is fifteen and Ray still has her, but he speaks more and more of her death. He does not know it is what she longs for. She does not know he has something more terrifying than death in mind for her. This is Alice's story. It is one you have never heard, and one you will never, ever forget.

I sort of feel bad for giving this two stars, but it lacked substance.  That being said, it is definitely written for teens, and about a really tough topic, so I can see why the author didn't dig too deep. I may have preferred this book when I was in high school, but definitely not as a twenty-six year old.

44. I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll (3.5/5 ★)

When Ella Longfield overhears two attractive young men flirting with teenage girls on a train, she thinks nothing of it—until she realises they are fresh out of prison and her maternal instinct is put on high alert. But just as she’s decided to call for help, something stops her. The next day, she wakes up to the news that one of the girls—beautiful, green-eyed Anna Ballard—has disappeared.
A year later, Anna is still missing. Ella is wracked with guilt over what she failed to do, and she’s not the only one who can’t forget. Someone is sending her threatening letters—letters that make her fear for her life.
Then an anniversary appeal reveals that Anna’s friends and family might have something to hide. Anna’s best friend, Sarah, hasn’t been telling the whole truth about what really happened that night—and her parents have been keeping secrets of their own. Someone knows where Anna is—and they’re not telling. But they are watching Ella
It’s always hard for me to listen to audiobooks when they’re read in a non-Midwest accent, and this one was no different. Since the story was set in England, it made sense that the narrator had a British accent, but it was so distracting to me. It took me awhile to get into the story (perhaps because of the accent thing) and it wasn't incredibly suspenseful, but it was a good story with an unexpected ending. I Am Watching You is available for free with Kindle Unlimited and has an audiobook option.

45. Pretty Little Killers by Rita Herron (4/5 ★)

Still haunted by his wife’s murder—and stained by the blood of avenging it—FBI special agent Hatcher McGee can’t believe he’s being teamed up with rookie agent Korine Davenport. She is his most guilty secret—the one-night stand who almost cost him everything.
Korine has her own demons. As a child, she witnessed her father’s murder, and she’s spent her life waiting for the killer’s return. She and Hatcher are both looking for closure, but the disturbing case that draws them together could be their last.
When the mutilated body of a corrupt Savannah judge surfaces, Hatcher and Korine find themselves on the trail of a vigilante who is showing no mercy. Not for the predators who’ve gone free. And not for anyone who gets in the way.
As the body count rises, and as Hatcher’s and Korine’s own pasts unfold, they must risk their lives tracking a killer they’ve come to understand all too well. After all, the ends justify the means.

At the beginning, I was disappointed in this story as an audiobook because the narrator was an incredibly monotonous reader. Her narration did improve as the story went on, however.  I liked this story as a mystery, but there were two very graphic sexual encounters that seriously did not fit in the story. It felt like the author tried to make this a romance mystery, but didn't know how to smoothly incorporate the romance.  This book is available for free with kindle unlimited and comes with an audiobook option.

46. My Sister's Grave by Robert Dugoni (4/5 ★)

Tracy Crosswhite has spent twenty years questioning the facts surrounding her sister Sarah’s disappearance and the murder trial that followed. She doesn’t believe that Edmund House—a convicted rapist and the man condemned for Sarah’s murder—is the guilty party. Motivated by the opportunity to obtain real justice, Tracy became a homicide detective with the Seattle PD and dedicated her life to tracking down killers.
When Sarah’s remains are finally discovered near their hometown in the northern Cascade mountains of Washington State, Tracy is determined to get the answers she’s been seeking. As she searches for the real killer, she unearths dark, long-kept secrets that will forever change her relationship to her past—and open the door to deadly danger.

I love a good suspenseful mystery, and this book was just that.  Until the very end, I was guessing who the real killer would be.  There was enough going on to keep my interest throughout the story, but not so much so that it was distracting.  This book came free with Kindle Unlimited, and came with the free audio version.

47. Ricochet Joe by Dean Koontz (4/5 ★)

Can an ordinary guy make extraordinary choices in a battle between humanity and unearthly evil?
Joe Mandel is a perfectly ordinary guy from a perfectly ordinary town—a college student and community volunteer who dreams of one day publishing a novel. When a series of strange intuitions leads him to a crime in progress, Joe jumps headlong into danger without hesitation. In the aftermath, he wonders about the uncanny impulse that suddenly swept over him.
Until new friend Portia Montclair, the strangely wise daughter of the local police chief, explains to him what sent him ricocheting around town like a crazy pinball. Portia tells of another reality, a reality more thrilling—and terrifying—than Joe ever imagined. Timeless, elemental forces of good and evil have come to the quiet town of Little City: a cosmic entity capable of infecting human beings, and the seeker who has chosen Joe to find it.
To stop the malevolent invader, this average Joe must be braver than he ever thought possible…and face the hardest decisions of his life.
I have been a HUGE fan of Dean Koontz since I read my first book by him the summer after I was in eighth grade.  They're always so weird and bizarre but in the best way.  I did not care for this story, not because the story line was bad, but because it was too short. This was the first novella I read and I found that I do not care for short stories.  I love books that have a lot of substance to them which novellas don't.  If you are into shorter stories, you can get this one for free with Kindle Unlimited, which also comes with the audio version of it.  The audiobook was just short of two hours long.

Reading Challenge: 47/52 books read in 2018