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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Restaurant Review: Ta Ra Rin in Eugene Oregon

As part of my goal to eat my way through Eugene, Oregon in early September, 2014, my nieces took me to Ta Ra Rin which is one of their favorite Thai restaurants.

The decor is nice and the prices are a bit on the steep side (for my budget), but overall, it was a great experience...even though, oddly, I didn't like my meal.  We gave it another go later in the week and I tried something different.  Plus we shared our dishes so I got to know what things I might or might not like.

 The restaurant was semi-busy (I have no idea if they had a lot of to-go orders or not), and the service was friendly but quite slow.

I WISH WISH I had taken better notes about what we ate.  I think I had Pad Ruam Mit but I'm not certain.  Nobody at our table, including me, liked it very much.  I had it with tofu.  The entire dish had a strange flavor and was a bit slimy overall.  Everything in it looks fresh and I think it was served in one of the cutest bowl/plates I had ever seen...but it just didn't trip my trigger.

One in our party ate this...but I don't remember what it was.  Looks like chicken, green onions, some sprouts

I also have no idea what this was.  Each person seemed to enjoy and like their meal and the other three in our party seemed to know from past experience what they would like.

We got a couple of desserts to share.  This is the black sticky rice with coconut ice cream.  It's good but interesting and different.  I'm not a huge fan of coconut, and the warm rice made the ice cream turn to soup pretty quickly.

This desert is crispy banana with coconut ice cream.  I didn't try this one since the other once had coconut ice cream, and I don't like bananas.  I think I would likely skip dessert next time...and there will be a next time.

While I didn't get a photo of it, one of my nieces ordered the Tom Kha soup and I tried it and it was to die for.  Addicting.  We came back on another night and got soup (with chicken added) to go.  The soup ran $11 per order, desserts around $6 each, and the meals range from $12-18, with very few below $15.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Restaurant Review: Cafe Lucky Noodle in Eugene Oregon

I visited the Cafe Lucky Noodle in Eugene, Oregon in September 4, 2014 with my nieces.  We were shopping in the 5th Street Market area and became suddenly starving and went in search of food.

We wandered in to the Cafe Lucky Noodle which was slow at the moment, dimly lit and gave the feel of being upscale.  After we were seated and we began to peruse the menu, I began to feel a bit like the scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts' character goes shopping on Rodeo Drive only to be treated like an they knew she didn't have the money or the class to shop in their stores.  Like that.  I felt like that.

The waitress was reasonably attentive by not overly friendly.  A big snobby, really.  We were debating leaving because honestly, we hadn't intended, nor did we want to pay so much for our "lunch".  In the end, somewhat out of embarrassment, we decided to see if we could piece together some things we could afford.

The atmosphere was a bit "upper crust" and we are a bit "down home on the farm".  I wanted to hate them, I honestly did.  I still think they are stupid expensive (either that or I'm just stupidly and chronically broke and come from a small town where nobody would pay prices like these...perhaps both), BUT, the food, what little there was of the tiny portions...really....tasted...good.  OK we were famished window shoppers, but much as I wanted to hate them...I couldn't.  I would probably never go there again unless of course some rich uncle was paying and said "sky is the limit, order anything and everything you want".  Then...well...I would do that.

Complimentary bread and a dip of olive oil, herbs, balsamic vinegar and a dollop of pesto.  Very simple and very good.

This was show on my receipt as a "Chix" Panini for $9.50...and the "spicy fries" were an additional $2.00.

This was the Ham & Gruye panini for $9.50 with the cup of creamy tomato soup an additional $2.

And me...cheapskate that I am, ordered a $4 appetizer of Spring Rolls. Well, since I have the receipt...I paid for all of it, so it all works out.  We all ended up sharing what we had so we could sample the wares.

We were only after a very simple, quick lunch.  This might not be the place for that.  These were more from the appetizer menu than the main menu, which boasted dishes in the $15-25 range.  Oye.  Where is Richard Gere with my credit card when I need him?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Coffee Shop Review: Allann Bros Coffee. The Beanery. Eugene Oregon

I visited the Allann Bros Coffee shop, The Beanery on 5th Street in Eugene, Oregon on a beautiful summer day in August of 2014.  My nieces were showing me their town.  We stopped here before shopping on in the 5th street Market district.  The company, in one form or another, on location or another began in 1972 and has a few locations in Oregon.

The lines were long and a little slow, but they were busy and a lot of people were ordering shee-shee coffee drink.  I'll admit it, I get a bit intimidated by trendy coffee shops that know their coffee inside and out and so do their somewhat trendy snobby customers.  I don't know much about coffee and wonder what to order when in a
new place.  I ended up ordering an iced vanilla latte...which came out a soy vanilla latte.  So I had to tell them that either I didn't say it right (totally possible) or they made it wrong.  They were very nice about it and didn't put me at the end of the line and it was handled fairly quickly.

The 20 oz iced vanilla latte cost $4.25 and one of my nieces ordered a 12 oz espresso mocha for $3.50.

The shop has a bare, industrial feel (open ceilings with duct work exposed) and some outdoor seating.  I'm not sure what the rest of the girls ordered.  I think they also have some baked goods
to purchase but I felt rushed...people didn't want to wait in line to begin with, and I can't think and hurry at the same time.  Would be nice to come in again at a slower time to learn more about them and study the menu.  It's sort of like you're already supposed to know what you want and what they have.

I would say that my coffee drink was average.  It lacked a depth and intensity of coffee flavor I like in my lattes.  I guess they were about par for the course for gourmet coffee venders in terms of price point...way to high to make a habit of it, but OK for a special treat.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Retail Store Review: Swahili African Modern in Eugene Oregon

Swahili African Modern is an import store of African arts and crafts and is located in the 5th Street Market shopping center in Eugene, Oregon.  I visited with two of my nieces in August of 2014.

I really, really liked this store.  So many beautiful, hand-made items.  The man running the store is also very nice and the vibe is relaxed.  The displays are artful, the store is clean and bright and the price point of items has enough of a range so that there just might be something for everyone there.

They also have a warehouse location with some slightly damaged wares available at deeply discounted properties.  Ask the store owner for directions to that.  It took us a while to find it.

This is a place I would love to make return visits too.  I can't explain it beyond the idea of "energy" that these items, made by hand and in a fair trade manner (no factories, just cottage industry) have an inviting and warm feel to them.

The place is worth a look if these types of imported crafts appeal to you at all.  I think you'll like it.  Sure, I wish the items had a lower price point...but mostly I just wish I had enough money to buy nearly everything there.  I bought a small soapstone box with lid with spiral inlaid design from a sale table.  It had a small chip break in it.

I will return!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Comedy DVD Review: Billy Connolly Live at New York Town Hall

Some of you might be more familiar with a Billy Connolly who looks more like this from his movie Quartet (which I recommend).  He has, at times been confused with UK comedian John Cleese of Monty Python fame and it's no wonder since they have appeared together and are friends.

Billy Connolly looked more like this photo in his Comedy DVD of 2006 Billy Connolly Live from New York City Hall.  He was only "clean cut" for a very few years and tends towards a more hippie-dued look.

Connolly is a brash, irreverent comedian who began his work life in the shipyards of Scottland, then as a folk singer and then as stand-up comedian, actor and philanthropist.

This stage recording shows Connolly as a bit of the Scottish version of Robin Williams.  He can't stand still and can't keep a train of thought going.  He hops from topic to topic as he distracts himself but always, or at least usually, manages to return to his original story/joke.  He swears a blue streak...mostly the f-bomb which seems to roll of his tongue more naturally than gratuitously.

I was not able to find a clip from this 2006 performance (when he was 62 or so), but YouTube abounds with many samples of his work.  I would give his work an R rating more for language than content.

His own enjoyment while performing is infectious and at times a little exhausting.  In fact, my husband fell asleep and struggled to stay awake through most of it.  Had he been watching something else, he may have remained more alert.  I enjoyed it but for me, he is best taken in small doses as his energy is a little overwhelming.  Ya know...he would be fun to have lunch with or coffee...but not go on a trip with.  Make sense?  I can't imagine him as a kid since at his current age, he has more energy than I will ever have.

These days, this is more what he looks like.  He is turned 72 in November 2014.  See if you can spot him in the upcoming addition to The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.  He has been somewhat recently diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.

We rented this DVD from Netflix and there may be others available as well as perhaps some streaming opportunities.  Here is a clip of him telling "fart stories" on a talk show in 1998.  Watch the clip below or via this link.  I adore his accent.  I can't always understand him, but I love it.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Restaurant Review: Sweet Life Patisserie in Eugene Oregon

This tasty little bakery or "patisserie" (because mostly, they do sweets), is located within walking distance from my sister's house in Eugene, Oregon.  So when I visited in August...we walked there...and ate there, and then tried to walk some more.

Sweet Life has a lot of truly yummy things to choose from.  I found it a challenge to decide what I wanted.  Since we were there in the morning, and I hadn't eaten breakfast yet, I was a bit hesitant to just dive into sugar and coffee headlong lest I crash my blood sugar and wish I was dead an hour later.  But ya know...when in Rome...

Sweet Life is sort of a long and narrow storefront and has limited seating.  If they're busy, you might have to wait and you might have to take your order to go.  On this day, at this time, we didn't have to wait and there were tables available.  WOOT!

How to decide, how to decide!!

Service was fast and friendly.

First, I dutifully took care of "breakfast" with a toasted everything bagel and cream cheese and then I lit my brain on fire with a cheesecake brownie and coffee.  The bagel was $1, the cream cheese was $1, my 20 oz latte was $3.75 with an additional $.50 upcharge for the vanilla syrup, and the brownie was $2.05


My sister went for peach pie and coffee.  She was so excited, she may have spilled her coffee just a little bit.

Her pie was $4.50 and her 12 oz Americano was $1.75.  So in total, our little treat cost $14.55.  That's too much to do very often.

It's a fun little place with tasty treats.  I would let my sister drag me here again.  Just sayin'.

I know this video is a whopping 10 minutes long and ordinarily that would bore me, but it is the 20 year history of Sweet Life and it's set to nice music.  I found it educational and inspiring.  What a lot of hard work and dedication they've put forth!  Enjoy.  Watch below or via this link.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Book Review: Where the Horses Run by Kaki Warner

Where the Horses Run (2014) by Kaki Warner, is a Western-style romance novel set in Scotland, England, and Colorado in the year 1871.

Josephine is in a tough spot. Given that she has a child out of wedlock, and her once-rich father has gambled his wealth away, she must make some tough decisions between choosing from the heart and choosing from what makes practical sense...ya know...given that it's 1871, and she's a woman...with a "bastard" child.  It's not helpful that her father is asserting pressure and trying to basically pimp her out to whoever is in a position to pay off his debts.

OK, so, this book was passed on to me.  I don't typically choose books in this genre, but am willing to read free stuff...that's how I roll.  I think the book is well-written, and I tend to enjoy Western-style novels set in earlier times.  So it had that going for it.  The sex scenes were minimal and not overly explicit but it was, as romance novels all are, predictable.

I was entertained while it lasted, but I won't remember it book?