Divine Thai

2013-12-28 14.21.12On a cold day, soup is always a source of great warmth for the body, mind and soul. Yesterday, we fed our desire for soup at Divine Thai, with the help of our beautiful waitress who happened to be Spencer’s sister Paige. Divine Thai is owned by Spencer and Paige’s Aunt Aor and Uncle Norman. Aor carries on her family’s tradition of hospitality in the US with great pride. The entire team is tremendous and even when I ask for no sugar and no nuts, the answer is YES and the outcome is always delicious.

Spencer enjoyed the soup pictured above. Duck Noodle Soup: Roasted duck and rice noodles topped with bean sprouts, celery, cilantro, fried garlic, and chopped scallions in a duck broth. $8.95

2013-12-28 14.22.31I enjoyed the Thai Noodle Soup: Chicken and rice noodles with bean sprouts, fried garlic, cilantro, and scallions in a special Thai broth. $7.50

Both were large portions and were filled with meat, sprouts and rice noodles with a natural stock that was carefully prepared. This was not a universal stock that is flavored for the meat choice; the meat was cooked in the same broth that we enjoyed. The noodles were well cooked and very tasty. The chicken stock was not salty and had been reduced well to bring out the best flavors. Duck on the other hand springs out strongly in the first few bites and grew on Spencer, who was a newcomer to duck broth. By the end, he was slurping away with true love. I do think he had to fish out the spoon more than once, but I wasn’t counting. (It was twice!)

We also enjoyed the Four Seasons Spring Rolls and steamed Pork Dumplings. We get these EVERY time! The four seasons spring rolls are fresh, very fresh – did I say FRESH?!- and quite crunchy. They go really well with the moderately spicy, specially-ordered sweet and sour sauce that replaces the usual peanut sauce. The wrapping is never rubbery and always-moist ingredients make it a great starter for every visit. When I hear Divine Thai, I think about these rolls.  The Steamed Dumplings filled with pork and spices are delicious and are accompanied with the most delicate ginger sauce that is gentle on the palate without the sometimes salty puckering that other recipes present elsewhere.

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There was a party of 8 sitting nearby with 4 youngsters and they were really enjoying themselves. I heard a very large order and I’m sure that their experience was just as delightful as ours.

Divine Thai. Go and Enjoy!

Divine Thai can be followed on Facebook: www.facebook.com/DivineThai

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Disney’s Guide to Saving Mr. Banks

Why do writers write? Why do singers sing? Why do filmmakers, um… film-make? Saving Mr. Banks explores one of the most infamous creative collaborations of the 20th century to find an answer. We all know how the story ends, but now we’re asked: how did it begin?

As legend would have it, Walt Disney made a promise to his daughters that he would make their favorite book into a movie. Being that he’s Walt-effing-Disney, it’s not exactly the loftiest claim, but then again, he didn’t know a lick about the person he’d have to go through to make that happen. P.L. Travers, the author of the series, was notoriously, em, exact about her characters. And she wasn’t really into fun things like music or animation either.

So Walt picked away at this lady for 20 years, before she finally considered a Disney adaptation. All it took, thanks be Jeebus for the movie’s sake, was a thick slab of guilt spread atop a slice of tenacity.

But even that first “yes” was more of a “maybe” and it was hardly smooth sailing from there. Little things, like mustaches and the exterior of the Banks’ home and the use of red were met with hasty objections. In the beginning, it seemed downright nit-picky, but through a series of flashbacks we learned a bit more about her own private compass.

The “real” Mr. Banks, Travers’ father, was an alcoholic, her mother suicidal. And the women who allegedly came to directly inspire Mary herself was Travers’ Aunt Ellie. As one might imagine, when two parents are helplessly lost, the nanny often serves as a beacon of hope for the children. In Travers’ early life, her imagination didn’t “save” her from her situation or her father from his illness. Nothing really got better.

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So then, why the fictional super-nanny? Why children’s books that provided whimsical adventures for its readers?

Whether Travers’ true intentions were ever documented, I’m not certain (though at the very least, there was a tape recording of an early script-reading that rolled after the credits). BUT, this movie did have some pretty compelling ethos that pointed to a reason. It’s all in the title, so I’m not really spoiling anything here, but she was rewriting her past. Giving those events a soft glow as a way to heal and inspire. Essentially, it was her spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. Maybe not in the most DELIGHTFUL way, but at least with a much less icky after-taste. When Walt figured that out, he got his movie. Or so says SMB anyway.

AJ and I were both impressed by this one. The story was strong and, true to Disney form, it got me teary-eyed by the end. It certainly beat out Frozen in our year-end best list. If you’re not sold on the story alone, go for Emma Thompson, who makes good on a role initially offered to Meryl Streep (The woman, the myth, the legend).

The portrayal of Disney felt surprisingly authentic too. I mean, yes, this picture is owned by the dude’s film studio, so we’re not going to see the guy spit on children or push elderly folk into freeways, but he wasn’t all candy canes and gum drops either. Allegedly, Tom Hanks fought to portray Disney, the closet nicotine fiend, which did make it to the final cut. Well, sort of. We see him put out a cigarette as someone walks into his office and explain that he needs to retain his image. He’s also awfully pushy, and not very nice when it comes to inviting the author to her own film premiere. Bottom Line: he didn’t talk like Mickey or shoot rainbows from his palms, so I was satisfied.

Although, thinking out loud, it may not have been so bad if he did do all those aforementioned gay things. The Disney brand is all about the fantasy. Creating alternate realities so we can handle our own. And really, what’s so bad about that?

3 Fantastic Dog Role Models

Everybody has that one public figure that represents their own pinnacle of perfection. For me, it’s Jim Henson. For AJ, it’s, I dunno, Malcolm Gladwell or Dr. Oz or some shit. Y’all understand – there are people everywhere who go out and achieve big things, and they inspire the rest of us to become giants. So here’s a thought for a couple parents-to-be: what about our canine companions?

AJ and I want a dog that’s gonna be the best ever. Ambitious, loyal, not stupid… Which is why the more fun of its two daddies (Yes, Spencer) will have a few mandatory motion pictures under the Xmas tree. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and we’ll be damned if we don’t give our mutt the proper tools for survival. Here are the top role-models we’ll be introducing to our four-legged friend:

1. Arcanine

Arcanine

Yes, the fire dog Pokemon. Not like I should have to explain, but here it is for the uninitiated (ie, folks born before 1985): First, he’s the size of horse, so you can ride the darn thing. Yep, even as an adult. Second, he’s got tiger stripes, and the thought of a tiger/domestic dog hybrid is literally the most perfect thing I could ever think of. Third, and most importantly, this would be a pet so powerful, it would feed and protect us. It produces its own heat, which means we could easily have it live outside guilt-free, which also means we would never have to get up at 5 in the morning to take it out for a tinkle. And when we’re snowed in, he’ll flamethrower our way out. What better ideal for a young mutt to try to live up to? Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, can someone seriously figure out how to bioengineer this thing?

2. Shadow and Chance from Homeward Bound

So these two are very ying-yang, but each represent wonderful qualities that any parent would love. Shadow is wise, even-tempered, and cat-tolerant. Chance is playful, energetic, and boisterous. Together they manage to travel approximately eleventy billion miles to find their family. No compass, no road map, just pure unadulterated instinct. They’ve also mastered the secret art of telepathy, which is nothing to sneeze at. But above all, they manage, even when hungry and desperate, NOT to eat the snooty house cat that follows them around. That right there is a miracle.

3. Hachi

Speaking of miracles, this little trooper’s resilience made it an icon of good dogs. Talk about bending over backwards – this champ returned to a train station to meet his owner every day for 9 years after the poor sap passed away. In the off-chance he would rise from the dead and return, Hachi the adorable Akita would be waiting. He still is, in fact. That story was so moving to so many people, they built a statue in the dog’s honor, which has sat there patiently since 1948. Even Richard Gere took notice and played his ill-fated master in a movie!

Something tells me the owner has yet to make it back, but I’m willing to bet Statued Hachi gets a TON of visitors, some of which are bound to be way cooler than the first guy. That’s gotta count for somethin’. I can only hope that when AJ or I meet our maker in the midst of saving orphans from a house fire or retrieving the survivors of a sinking ship, our dog will do something equally awesome in our honor and get bronzified for it.

We can only hope. Today, we’re continuing our search. In the meantime, our sister Paige beat us to the punch.

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Say hello to our new niece, Gypsy. Ain’t she the sweetest?

‘Til next week, my lovelies!

Pup Search & The Lakeside Bar & Grille

After AJ got out of work on Monday, we began our search to find the perfect four-legger to complete our family. We’ve been combing the interwebs for months now passively interviewing possible candidates and have decided it will take a very highly skilled, loftily credentialed canine of extensively diverse pedigree to wow the pants off of one experienced dog owner and a distinctly hard-to-please HR veteran.

So this week, we finally decided to take it to the streets. Our points of interests? Worcester, Douglas, and Hopkinton. Here’s our experience:

To start, we took a few steps to our backyard. Worcester Animal Rescue League has no shortage of character. Its motley crew consists of an adorable wire-haired Cindi Lauper, a moaning exhibitionist bull terrier named Sneakers, and a curiously-named female Pointer/Terrier mix called Sprinkles. Needless to say, our two favorites were already adopted. There were a few others that caught our attention, but ultimately, the sizes and larger-than-life personalities didn’t quite fit with our casual jet-setting lifestyle.

Moving on, the next stop in our journey was Dog Orphans in Douglas. We were wowed by this place, which felt most like a legitimate foster home. The pups live in the lower level of a split ranch, and its attendants were majorly sweet and accommodating. The space was also VERY clean and every single one of the dogs was beautiful. Like Westminster ready. We narrowed it down to 2, one of which we could have taken home that second, but low-and-behold, she was claimed. We’re thrilled to think lovely Nelwin will have a good home for the Holidays, but would secretly love to selfishly snatch her and love her for life.

And, because Spencer is OCD about doing things in 3, we made one final stop: Baypath Humane Society in Hopkinton. There, we were greeted by 2 employees who were pretty upfront about the fact that there weren’t many options, but who did offer an interview with the adorable young pup Violet. Our new friend Julie gave us the lowdown on this lovable little scamp, who, in 4 years, would have been our ideal companion. But, as a young, barely trained baby, we simply couldn’t give her the structure she needed to blossom into a sophisticated bitch.

As we drove up Rt. 85 heading home we discussed how lucky we are to have a good variety of loving pet adoption agencies in our area and how much we look forward to visiting them again. We are determined to find our perfect-fit pup, and when we see him or her – or hir, if our baby so chooses – We will know. We have already felt love at first sight.

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By 4pm, homeward bound, we chose to have an early dinner at the Lakeside Bar and Grille in Shrewsbury, MA. It’s in the back corner of the Petco/Trader Joe’s Plaza on Rt. 9 and it was packed (always a good sign, as AJ points out). Once we sat ourselves, the server greeted us promptly and we were well on our way into a wonderful restaurant experience. Our lady was sweet, very kind and took us on a guided tour that we really enjoyed. In our blind hunger we chose a hefty dish that would serve us in the “right now” (no standard white box toomfoolery this time around). We wanted soup or some other stew like a heart-warming ball of sunshine in our bellies…there were icicles on our earlobes that needed melting.
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We ultimately settled on the heaping mound of Ultimate Nachos, a hefty dish which includes Chili and Chicken. Even though the center was a bit squishy, the medley of fresh flavors definitely demand a repeat, chili-on-the-side, visit. What really did it for us were the fire-hot jalapenos, which Spencer ate in spoonfuls and AJ second-hand enjoyed. We also shared a crock of French Onion Soup that was absolutely delicious. Thin broth, lots of onions, and just the right amount of cheese floating on top of a delicious crouton made this a repeat guest, too. For us, though, the REAL ultimate of The Lakeside Bar and Grille was its old school way of attracting its community. They encourage families with free kids meals on Mondays. Offer daily specials that are guaranteed weekly. Promote Happy Hour and have a staff that is buzzing around like happy little worker bees. Not to mention the space was perfectly-sized and instantly inviting. We will likely be going back before winter’s end.

So on we go in our search for our newest family member. In the meantime, we’ll keep doin’ what we do till it all falls into place. Get ready, folks, the Holidays are nearing!

Enjoy!

Pre-Holiday Panic: Frozen, LeFoyer, and Spencer’s Wishlist

Ok. So, Christmas is really almost here. WTF? Am I the only human who’s yet to buy my gifts? It’s the same deal literally every year – I map out my presents for everybody in September, don’t start shopping till December 23, find about half the things I wanted to get, and settle for cheaper, less amazing options. It’s pathetic.

To be fair though, this year I stretched a bit. Largely influenced by my better half, I’ve done some mall shopping. I did buy one gift, but it was for me. And there’s another that’s actually being handcrafted by a friend of mine for my dearest madre. Not to toot my own horn, but at this rate I should most definitely have perfect gifts obtained, wrapped and under the tree by roughly June. Go me!

In the midst of all of our Holiday chaos, there were a few events that slipped by, many of which deserve a mention on this lil’ blog of ours. So here’s a quick recap of the highlights:

Paige, Lillian, AJ, and I snuck a visit to see Frozen the day before Thanksgiving. Goodies first: excellent production. The visuals and voice-acting were top notch (Idina Menzel’s in it, so obvi). The music was ok, and there were a few instances when the humor fell flat. It needed better pace, and a bit more screen time for the side cast (specifically Olaf, the weird little snowman). In the end, it was far from being “Disney’s best since the Lion King“, but the good news is, we have Tangled for that. Go watch it if you haven’t, it’s seriously wonderful.

Note to self: if I get excited about a teaser trailer, expect to like the final movie approximately half as much.

Note to self: if I get excited about a teaser trailer, I should expect to like the final movie approximately half as much.

What else? Ah, we had a surprise party for my boss this past weekend at a place called LeFoyer Club in Pawtucket, RI. It was pretty amazing getting to meet her boisterous and lovable family (including her adorable boo), and the food was great. Calamari, nachos, sandwich wraps, chicken fingers and wings, it took literally all of my willpower not to get seconds. And that was solely because I needed room for cake. Mmmm… Cake.

Oh, and if anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas this year, here’s my top 3: A Barnes and Noble Giftcard (to extend my Nook library), a DVD copy of Tangled since I love it, AJ hasn’t seen it and the WRONG version is on Netflix, AND this amazing little doohickey. Ain’t that somethin’?

As for AJ, he desperately wants a dog to pamper with (almost) as much love and affection as yours truly.

Have a safe and restful weekend, my fellow New Englanders. This one’s lookin’ to be a real stick-in-the-mud weather-wise. So allow me to introduce y’all to Bed, your best friend for the next 48 hours.

Rudolph’s Poops & Cookie Time In the Country

It was 26°F and the smell of snow filled the air. Sunday, December 8th was a day of tradition. Sandie and William were hosting their annual “Christmas Cookie Time in the Country” and we didn’t have plans for the early part of the day. We decided to pair necessity with opportunity and take a slow route with a late breakfast at UNCLE JAY’S TWISTED FORK. We don’t have a tradition of visiting with Uncle Jay, but we could be starting something soon. The experience was that good.

The Twisted Fork Bistro is a farm to fork establishment who proudly notifies customers on page one of their menu of the excitement to follow:

Our Mission
We are a true Bistro. Our menus change as the seasons do. We are a farm to fork establishment and we source almost all of our products locally. We are a from scratch/cooked to order restaurant and have very high standards using only fresh ingredients. YES, IT TAKES LONGER TO CREATE, as we individually prepare each dish, your patience will be rewarded.

When we see something like this proudly noted in a menu, we do not see WARNING! We see GOODNESS! The idea that there will be care and love placed into our meal is always reassuring, and as usual, presents a much more entertaining experience for our eyes and a new blossoming to our taste-buds.

Uncle Jay’s is a place that isn’t fancy; there’s no valet, no dress requirements, no code of this and that. They do, however, have a dirt parking lot and it was filled when we arrived. We were promptly greeted by the host and seated at one of two remaining open tables and our waitress set us up quickly with steaming hot cups of coffee to enjoy while we scrutinized the menu. Lately, I’ve been very unwilling to step off of the list of daily specials. This unwillingness was encouraged by this weekend’s offerings. Uncle Jay’s Twisted Fork (and slightly twisted mind) had a heart warming option for the little boy inside me.

For our breakfast we enjoyed the following:

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Rudolph’s Poop Omelette (burger bites, sauteed onion and cheese $8.99) Shown above at the top of this post. With a name that could easily denote bad things, the flavors and presentation made me really happy about eating poop! The craftsmanship required to prepare the burger bites and prep the entire presentation was really thoughtful and now we have the proud privilege of saying that we’ve eaten Rudolph’s waste. Doesn’t everyone on the earth want this notoriety? You do – don’t kid yourself.


Irish Skillet
(mashed, spinach, corned beef 2 poached and our hollandaise $10.99) Shown here and eaten mostly by Spencer, was quite the impressive blend of individual flavors. The corned beef, spinach, eggs and hollandaise maintained flavor integrity. I had two bites and each was different. A delicious medley of flavors with each bite dancing a different rhythm. The poached eggs rivaled the best of the best. Still running their own race around the maze of other ingredients.

2013-12-08 12.43.04The entire experience was cozy and we were constantly entertained by this vignette to our right, especially the wreath hung between the windows. Below it was Santa’s chair for his Saturday visits. It’s so overwhelming to think that I was eating Rudolph’s poo-poos just four feet from Santa’s chair. Whew!! We both agreed that we can’t wait to return for dinner on a Friday or a Saturday.

Our holiday spirit continued to rise in the next leg of our journey.

The annual “Christmas Cookie Time in the Country” event dozens of friends and family and dozens of dozens of cookies to share! To top it all off Sandie presents a cruise ship caliber buffet. Roast Beef that was fork tender and seasoned to perfection and broccoli with roasted garlic. There was a spicy bacon and cheddar mac and cheese that left the scaredy-cats and some kids disappointed as a result of our selective hearing. “Mac and Cheese? Where’s the Mac and Cheese?!?” My fork-lickin’ spice queen Spencer warned that the dish would be a bit too intense for me. I steered clear, but let me tell you…there was a whole tray scraped clean and another that was on its way to the tracks of food love!

The Cookie Time starts with the very first minute of arrival and ends with the hostess standing with hands on hips at the door wishing Merriment and demanding cookie-filled containers for departure. It was a hard offer to resist. With everything from (my sugar-free) pizzelles to snickerdoodles, to recipes with odd ingredients (William and his mum concocted cookies featuring bacon and Chinese noodles, respectively), all the standards and show-stoppers were represented. Sandie’s Mom and Dad saved containers from veggies and other takeout scenarios for all of us to bring home more cookies than we initially brought. Spencer and I took home, with permission, nearly a shoebox of roast beef and broccoli. Steak and Eggs is on the menu, soon!

We honored the old, brought in the new, and collected some memories on the way. Thanks again, friends!