Spilling Some Tea

Whose family doesn’t have drama? Some dark secrets you want to keep hidden? Some unsavory activity someone is guilty of? Or just some normal every day crap that gets stirred up by the family instigator?

Our family is no different.

Some of you who know us personally don’t even know that my husband has two brothers. He stopped talking to them when his father died and some stuff got stirred up. His father’s will, which had been on the kitchen table with other documents, mysteriously went missing. His sister-in-law beseiged us with requests to split everything three ways, despite what the will indicated; requests to do what “daddy” wanted (she’d never personally met the man), and requests for a copy of the death certificate – before we’d even had the funeral. Niether of his brothers wanted to see his dad, so we took care of the viewing and cremation ourselves. The week of the funeral, where we hosted his one brother and sister-in-law in our house, ended with his brother telling me I was fat, and me, in true South Philly fashion, yelling out the front door as he was walking away – for all the neighbors to hear – that his wife was a bitch, and at least I could lose weight. For any of you who have referred to me as “Sweet Anna” at any time, this was not my finest hour.

Jim and his brothers were not particularly close. I didn’t even meet this one brother until we had been married 10 years. I’m not sure why it took that long. He lives in California, we’ve always been on the east coast. We invited them to come stay with us for a family event when we lived in South Florida, and they came, spent two days with us, then left for Key West. His wife called me from Key West and begged to come back to stay with us, because she didn’t like Key West and guys were hitting on her husband. They came back to Weston, stayed another couple of days, then went to Orlando to visit Jim’s mother. I only saw them one other time outside of the funeral in the 30+ years Jim and I have been together. We stayed one night at their house in California. They gave us a nice dinner, let us sleep in an unheated water bed, and we took them to brunch the next morning in Sacramento before we left to continue our cross country trip. It was pleasant, but not comfortable, and I was so glad to be on my way away.

Jim’s mother never fostered any kind of friendship among the brothers. At times, although I have no concrete proof, she drove wedges between them. His brother Robert married after Jim and I did. The two were talking on the phone in one of their rare phone conversations through the years, and Jim asked Robert about the wedding he was going to have. He told us that he was having just a quick trip to Nevada because their mother wasn’t paying for their wedding like she had paid for ours. Except she didn’t pay for ours – Jim and I did. We told all of our parents we’d pay for our immediate family, aunts, and uncles, and if they wanted to go further with guests – like their friends – they would pay for the extra people. She did have some of her friends there, that she did pay for, but that didn’t mean she paid for the whole wedding, like she told Robert she had.

This brother also seemed like “the golden child” from my perspective. Although his mother, on multiple occasions, referred to her sons as “the cheat, the sneak, and the liar,” it always seemed like Robert was favored over the other two. He seemed more well liked by his aunts, he was invited to things we were never invited to, and he just seemed he had a much closer relationship with his mother’s family than we did, despite being so far away from everyone. I won’t say he did everything right. I remember his wife calling us one Christmas after we had hosted them at our place during their Key West debaucle saying she had sent what she thought was a lovely gift to Jim’s mother, only to have her send it back, broken, with a note that said she didn’t want it. She vowed never to talk to Jim’s mother again – but quickly changed her tune when probate issues arose around Jim’s father’s death and she needed to rally troops to her side. I guess the wind blew in many directions.

Another thing that has always bothered me about this brother is that before Jim and I were married, shortly after we moved in together, he told Jim not to marry me. He didn’t think I was a good fit for Jim for a number of reasons, and he had no trouble at all telling Jim we shouldn’t get married.

So, when we inadvertently found out over the weekend that this brother was now divorced, I have to admit that I did a little internal happy dance. I don’t ever like to see anyone go through difficult times, but knowing the heartache this brother has caused me through the years – even in his absence from our lives – made me praise the Lords of Karmic Retribution just a little bit.

I spent almost 30 years with a mother-in-law I could never make happy. If I did what she wanted, it wasn’t good enough. If I didn’t do what she wanted, I wasn’t good enough. If I didn’t do things she thought I should do but that never entered my mind, I was awful. And whether it was her influence or not, I never felt I could measure up to standards Jim’s brother (this one in particular) expected Jim to reach. I feel like a horrible human being, but his divorce sparked joy in my heart.

I’ve never been more proud to be married to my husband than I was after this news. Although communication between Jim and this brother was rare, it seemed that those communications were filled with messages of negativity and disapproval of the life Jim chose. Yet here we are, 31 years into our relationship, three children and one and a half grandchildren in, living in a small home in Bellmawr that is filled with more love than money. And when I heard this news, as horrible as it makes me as a human being, it made me feel rich. It made me feel triumphant. It made me feel overwhelmingly blessed that despite messages from his brother, Jim hung in with me and made US work.

And wow. I’m so grateful that this brother – and Jim’s mother – continually challenged Jim with their negativity. I have so benefitted from him continually climbing out of the pool of adversity they wanted to keep him in. He’s been determined from day one to prove them wrong, and it’s proven to me that he would go to the ends of the earth for us.

Storybook Dining at Artist Point With Snow White – A Review

After booking a last minute trip during spring break with my daughter and grandson, I was certain we’d never score a reservation for the new Storybook Dining at Artist Point with Snow White. I was honestly stunned that not only did I snag a reservation, but I was able to change it three separate times to accommodate our ever changing schedule. This, perhaps, should have been a sign of things to come. This is one story that doesn’t necessarily have a fairytale ending.

We arrived for our 5:50 dining reservation about 20 minutes early, and when we checked in, we were told we’d be seated about the time of our reservation. By 5:45, we were already comfortable at our table, gazing around at the beautiful surroundings. It does look like they’ve taken you into the woods, where you would expect to find the Seven Dwarfs’ cottage. It’s rustic and woodsy, but still bright and inviting. We loved the vibe.

Trees at Storybook Dining

The grown up menus are encased in a rustic looking leather portfolio. It evokes a feeling of nature, and you could well imagine this is the type of “book” cover that might have been on one of the little tables next to Snow White’s bed. Love.

Adult menu at Storybook Dining

Our waiter comes over and informs us that in about five minutes, Snow White will appear from a door at the far end of the dining room, and she will be followed soon after by Dopey and Doc. He then gestures towards the Evil Queen, who is standing in front of a large scale book, and says that once the bill is paid, we can get in line to have photos taken with her on the way out. It seems like a fun way to end the evening.

Dinner here is a prix fixe menu, about $55 for adults, depending on when you go. The table is served three different appetizers, each guest chooses an entree, and then the table is served three different desserts. I’ve never been in love with a restaurant that doesn’t really let me choose which options I’d like to eat, so I take this with a grain of salt and hope for the best.

The shared appetizers and desserts are served on a really adorable yet surprisingly annoying Lazy Susan that resembles a branch of a tree with three large leaves. The plates are placed atop the leaves. This is totally cute, until you realize that the child you are there to photograph is on the opposite side of this giant Leafy Susan thing, and you cannot get a good photograph of him no matter how you angle yourself. You pretty much have to get up to take any photos around this thing. This is not a bad thing, it’s just not nearly as convenient as pointing the camera across the table to get a great photo at eye level with the little guy. When I tried to move the Lazy Leafy Susan thing, the base of it was sooooo sticky, it sort of grossed me out for any food that might come into contact with it, but I also learned that it’s darned heavy. It wishes not to be moved. I ended up pushing it ever so slightly out of my way so I could at least interact with my grandson during the meal.

Lazy Susan at Storybook Dining

So now let’s get to the food.

Appetizers included a butternut squash soup, served in tiny cauldrons, with a caramel/marshmellowy lollipop that was meant to be melted into the soup as you stirred. Except in our case, the soup wasn’t hot, so the marshmellow didn’t melt and sort of sat as a too sweet lump in the middle of the soup. The soup was sweet already, and a huge hit with Calder, who easily ate up both my cauldron and Brighid’s.

Next up was a Hunter’s Pie – a small, flaky pastry dough surrounding some sort of ground meat. I learned online later that the meat is chicken, however, we didn’t get that from the taste of it. It comes with an accompaniment of a stone fruit jam. The pastry dough is delicious and a beautiful, flaky, golden brown. The chicken inside is tough and a bit chewy. It looks like a meatball, although the flavor is a bit bland and nondescript. The stone fruit jam was slightly sweet, and it added much needed flavor to the chicken, although because the chicken was so bland, it overpowered it a bit.

Storybook appetizer selection

Finally, there is Wicked Shrimp Cocktail. I’m not sure where they catch the shrimp in the heart of the forest, so it’s a bit odd to see a shrimp cocktail among the appetizers. There is one shrimp per person at the table, and it is in a jar with miso, soy, Thai chili, and greens. This one was too spicy for me – heavy on the Thai chili. I just didn’t like the taste of this at all. My daughter also dismissed it after the first bite, and while her tolerance for spicy food is way greater than mine, it just didn’t taste good.

There is a decent selection of entrees, with something for every palate – seafood, beef, chicken, and even a vegetarian option. The waiter highly recommended the prime rib and the veal shank, so we went with those. The veal was fork tender, served over a celery root mash. It was a little awkward eating, in a bowl, but because the meat was so tender, it didn’t really require much in the way of cutting. The prime rib was okay. It really could have used more seasoning, but the “popover” (a Yorkshire pudding type of accompaniment) was quite yummy, and the horseradish mashed potatoes, while powerful in flavor themselves, were almost necessary to add a bit of taste to the beef.

Desserts here are also served as a trio – small, individual sized portions for everyone at the table. The desserts were a small, gooseberry pie topped with meringue; the Miner’s treasure – which was sort of like a cupcake in a jar type of thing with layers of sponge cake and buttercream frosting; and a poison apple – which was a white chocolate apple mousse with a tart center. The Miner’s Treasure was – to put it mildly – awful. It was a way too sweet dessert, with what tasted like stale spongecake and a thick, gritty frosting. There were chunks of something in the cake, but we each only took one bite before passing on it, so I’m not sure it added anything (internet research tells me they are chocolate bits). The gooseberry pie was a pleasant little dessert, with a tart filling. It’s not anything I would order if I could choose from a menu, but it was okay.

Miner's Treasure
Gooseberry tart

The star here is the poison apple. It’s light, just slightly tart, and a nice blend of dessert flavors. Again, I don’t think it’s something I’d order if I saw it on a menu of options, but when not being given choices, it was the best of the bunch.

Poison apple dessert

The meal ends with the waiter bringing over a small, smoking chest. The contents of the chest are the Hunter’s Gifts to the Queen. If you know the story, the huntsman was supposed to bring back Snow White’s heart, and inside the chest you’ll find a chocolate heart for each guest at the table, surrounded by cracked maple popcorn. I would have happily given up the entire dessert portion of the meal for a small bowl of the popcorn. I want to say up front – it had a slightly stale texture to it – but that is my favorite way to eat a caramel corn type of popcorn. This was sweet, with a hint of salt, and slightly chewy. Between Brighid and I, we got seven pieces of popcorn, and I was so glad she opted out of her share.

The Hunter's Gift

Because Brighid is pregnant, she couldn’t enjoy any of the specialty cocktails, so she instead got the Transformation Potion – a lemonade with a shot of blue stuff on the side that changed the color of the lemonade to a beautiful purple. It came with a blue lollipop spoon. I opted for the Enchanted Apple specialty cocktail. Slightly sweet, slightly tart, with a sugar rim around the glass. Tasty.

Enchanted apple cocktail

Overall, this is not a meal we’d repeat – although with a new granddaughter on the way, we may have to at some point. The character interaction with the baby was absolutely wonderful.

Calder and Dopey

For that alone, if there were options to choose your meal on this menu, we’d come back. But if you’re paying close to $60 a person for a meal and not enjoying either your appetizer or your dessert, you lose a lot of the value in a character meal. I’d rather pay for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party, where you often find the Seven Dwarfs, and know we are getting something for the money we are going to enjoy.

Calder and Grumpy

Oh – and we did not get to see the Evil Queen. By the end of the meal, the line was pretty long, the baby was done sitting still, and both Brighid and I needed to visit the restroom. I’d suggest not waiting until the end of your meal, as our waiter advised. There are periods of lull while you wait between courses and characters that might be a better time to meet with her.

Calder and Snow White

On a scale of 1-5, we have this meal at about a 2.5. Great characters, nice entrees, but the rest of the meal was majorly disappointing.