Sunday, August 31, 2014

Timpanogos Storytelling Festival

This year for the first time we went all-in and got a family pass for the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. It was fab! Our boys were just old enough to understand some double entendre but not old enough to get it all. The girls were old enough to stay mostly quiet. They had kettle corn. And our kids always voted to attend the sessions with the funniest storytellers so we were almost completely spared from the cultural enrichment and librarian worship (Dad, that was for you).

Here's our favorite eleven-year-old's guide to the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. I think he summarizes it well.

You want to watch Bil Lepp. He is hilarious. I saw Bil 5 times. He told extreme tall tales. At the end of one there were some people dancing naked on an RV. No, no, no, I don't mean they were doing that in the festival. I mean in the story.

The storytelling festival is very educational. Unless you're going to Bil.

Thanks for a fantastic weekend, Orem Public Library and Timpanogos Storytelling Festival! It was the perfect end-of-summer celebration. We'll definitely be there next year, probably at every Bil Lepp session if this year's attendance is any indication!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Picky Pizza Posters - Denny's

By Steve and Ben

Yes, Denny's. Not a pizza restaurant. It’s good for breakfast, but not really any other food. They don’t actually have a large pizza. But they do carry a personal pizza on their kids menu that deserved a rating on our list of not so exquisite pizzas. And besides, you need a Grand Slam from time to time.


Basic diner decor. Greasy handprints on obviously Photoshopped diner picture with a sucker stick stuck to the picture frame. Comfy cushions in booth, yet you don’t want to lean back lest you touch the back rest wet with sweat from the previous occupants. Old timey signs claiming 15 cent milkshakes (that they apparently do NOT honor). Kids menus with crayons to keep the littles busy. Not so busy that they forget to spill their beverage all over the table however.


Honestly best service we’ve ever had had this place. Server was well versed on what the menu items were. She did claim the kids pizza was quite good when asked and confirmed that there were not large pizzas on the menu, so her opinions are suspect despite her surprising competence. Complimentary WiFi always a plus.


Vanilla Coke. Bottomless hot cocoa. Ben: I’m surprised that they serve this in the summer.

Pizza Impressions

Gooey crust; the back crust feels stale, giving a somewhat crunchy mouthfeel; microwaved-nuclear hot, Sauce-to-cheese proportions tilted too far towards sauce, has some sort of peppery looking flakes to add to the visual appeal, greatly resembles grass clippings; best described as a microwave pizza sponge

Mom: Tastes like a warm Combo
Sam: At least it feels hot the whole way through.
Ben : Its like a grease sponge.
Sasha : Not that bad, I like it!
WanYing: Its not zero bad.

Sam: They should give the person who takes photos for the menu a raise, since they make it LOOK edible. It's worse than I remember...

Dad: I never claimed anyone needed to finish their slice. This is just wrong.

The pizza was quickly abandoned when the pancake puppies and Grand Slams arrived.

$3.59 with a drink and a side. If it were a large (heaven forbid) it would probably be about $7

General Consensus

1 out of 6 slices

Thursday, August 21, 2014

First Days of School Through the Years

For 9 years my growing family has (with varying degrees of enthusiasm) agreed to first day of school pictures. They started cute and have gotten both more adorable and spunkier through the years!

2007 - First Grade


2008 - Kindergarten and Second Grade


2009 - First and Third Grade

2009 was an epic year for first-day photography

This photo remains one of my very favorites. Sasha (2 and home 6 months) was not about to let that sweet Scooby Doo lunchbox out of her paws!


2010 - Second and Fourth Grade

I love that Ben picked the same first-day shirt 2 years in a row


2011 - Third and Fifth Grade


2012 - Kindergarten, Fourth, and Sixth Grade

Note - this is the year when Ben's strong morning aversion starts to manifest


2013 - First, Fifth, and Seventh Grade

3 awake kids, 1 zombie


2014 - Kindergarten, Second, Sixth, and Eighth Grade

3/4 ready for school. One ready to attack.
Happy first day of school to everybody! We've had such a great summer that it's hard to say goodbye to long days and spur-of-the-minute outings, but after such a fab summer it seems clear that this will be our best school year yet (for 75% of the children)!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Picky Pizza Posters - Hungry Howie's

The ultimate quest for the worst pizza experience in Utah Valley

by Sam

Hungry Howies is “Home of the flavored crust pizza” ,which is almost as disgusting as it sounds. It is also the eleventh largest pizza franchise in the nation. yay.

The location we visited was probably not designed to eat in, as it has only ten seats and a very distinct lack of bathrooms.

the service was very fast.

The pizza smells… interesting. The taste exceeds my expectations (which isn’t saying to much). The sauce tastes cheap, the crust is… interesting and the cheese tastes bland, but hey! Its pizza! How bad can it be?

Hungry Howie's Overall Score: 3/6 slices

Editor's note - as a reminder, here's our rating scale:
0 slices - I would not eat this at any price
1 slices - It’s not good but at least its pizza
2 slices - I would consider coming back if every other pizza place was closed
3 slices - Cheap enough and edible enough for my kid’s birthday party
4 slices - I’ll come back, but Dad is buying
5 slices - Somewhere between 4 and 6
6 slices - Stuffing some in my pockets to eat later

Other notes from the editors

Cost of a large cheese pizza: $9
Cost of a family special with 2 pizzas, 2 liters of root beer, and a cinnamon dessert pizza: $21.50
Pizzas ordered:
  • 1 extra cheese with "butter cheese" flavored crust. Yes, "butter cheese" was the name of the flavor. 
  • 1 Italian sausage with ranch flavored crust. We thought we should choose a bold flavor but couldn't bring ourselves to order "barbecue chip" flavored crust. The sausage-ranch combination may have been a mistake. Crust had a distinctly Dorito-like aftertaste, which I like in Doritos but it turns out not so much in pizza.
  • 1 cinnamon sugar dessert bread with icing dipping sauce. Sauce featured disgustingly prominently below.

Ben's Howie-face impression
Ben clearly loses the Howie-face contest by a mile
Never one to lose gracefully, Ben ups the ante by drinking down the icing dipping sauce
Shockingly, this leaves him feeling "uggggh" by the time we get home

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Snowbird Staycation

Last weekend we took one more summer mini-vacation and partied in style up at Snowbird. It was such a blast!

Last Saturday and Sunday were the the final stages of the Tour of Utah, Utah's biggest professional bike race. Half of us was super duper excited to volunteer for the Tour of Utah. The other half was kindly supportive of the idea. So we devised a plan.

Our plan was brilliant and foolproof - spend a small fortune on hotel, food, and activities all for the fun of volunteering a half day of our time to play a small part in the inner workings of a bicycle race. How could we go wrong? So we made reservations at The Cliff Lodge. We bought the kids activity wristbands so they were entertained. We gave them cash for lunch. All for the fun of racking bikes and helping spectators safely cross the road...

...and having front row seats for the finish!

It was a fabulous day, and the fun was only beginning.

We spent the remainder of our weekend enjoying a last-hurrah summer vacation before the beginning of school and it was perfect. It's amazing how getting out of the house and visiting a beautiful and super-fun environment with the people you love can turn an ordinary 36 hours into a bonafide vacation.

We jumped, flipped, leaped, and tumbled

We sailed and glided and flew
We coasted and screamed and laughed and never applied the brakes

We climbed and balanced and helped our terrified and screaming sister (they earned massive big-brother points on this one)

We slid and banked and used our brakes only a little

And we cuddled and hugged and enjoyed our time together.
Our Snowbird mini-staycation was the perfect end to a great summer. We're so blessed to have fabulous scenery and super-fun places like Snowbird right in our backyard! Now... time to go school supply shopping!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Picky Pizza Posters - Pizzaria 712

The ultimate quest for the worst pizza experience in Utah Valley

Based on the premise that there is no such thing as pizza that isn’t worth eating, we’ve decided to make it our goal to find the worst pizza place in our home town area of Orem. So for this school year we are going to a new pizza place every week with the explicit goal of discovering what the worst pizza in the valley is. We spent Tuesday evening in our local pizzeria discussing what our pizza rankings would look like and decided on the following scale:

0 slices - I would not eat this at any price
1 slices - It’s not good but at least its pizza
2 slices - I would consider coming back if every other pizza place was closed
3 slices - Cheap enough and edible enough for my kid’s birthday party
4 slices - I’ll come back, but Dad is buying (ed. pretty sure I always buy)
5 slices - Somewhere between 4 and 6
6 slices - Stuffing some in my pockets to eat later

We start our adventure at a place we think has the best pizza in the valley. Pizzeria 712. Hand tossed, made to order pizza cooked in a wood fired oven. Price of one large cheese $10 (14”).


Interesting art work, Spiffy old timey light bulbs, wood fireplace blazing, and derelict building across the street adds to the mystery of pizza production. The sinks in the bathroom are worth having an entire conversation about especially if you are a young teen.  Maybe the sink thesis means he actually washed his hands for once.

Excellent drink choices: Mexicoke, multiple bottled root beers, beer for Dad and wine for Mom. High hipster ratio -- Lots of long beards and RayBans sighted. Our waiter was clearly a gentle soul. But he also was the one that suggested we run out before the check came. While the thought of dashing out of the place turning over tables as we go has a rapscallion quality to it that would make the night memorable, we decided to be average, responsible patrons and pay for our food. Be a good example for the kids and all that.

Sam: And they are so high class they don’t have paper towels in the bathroom, they have regular towels.

Service Provided

Sasha: yummy and fast

Sam: servers are very polite

Ben spilled his water all over himself and was able to mop up his spill incredibly fast. Server brought him a new napkin almost right away.

Overall Impressions

Sam: This delectable yet filling pizza is splendiferous in every way

Crispy and soft at the same time, smokey, Cheese was melty and not too stretchy. Way too good to be on a bad pizza list.

Ben: Pizza for the refined palate

No leftovers, even though there should have been. We ordered a lot and ate every bit.

Pizzeria 712 gets our highest rating of 6 slices. Highly recommend

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sum Sum Summertime, Continued

Our sum-sum-summertime adventures continue with a whole lot of fun in the Utah sun.

Of course, we've taken lots of bike rides around the block so Sash and WanYing can practice their mad bike-riding skills.  We've been planning to take a girls' ride so Mommy can stretch out her ankle but we've had thunderstorms every evening since my ankle has felt up for a little ride. Lame! On the up-side, I consider the fact that I'm confident I could keep up girl-biking pace a positive indication of ankle health.

The last couple of weeks have also brought several experiences of high artistic culture, including 3rd row seats for Santana at Red Butte Garden. Now that was an amazing show! I do think, however, that I may be getting too old to work all day, party with Santana 'till midnight, and be ready the next morning for another full day at the office. Not that such a realization will change my concert schedule choices, of course... but maybe I'll get wise and make sure the next day's meetings start after 9 am.

We also scored preview tickets for the whole family to Fiddler on the Roof up at Sundance. If sitting out with under the starry sky with your family in the most beautiful mountains on earth listening to "If I Were a Rich Man" doesn't make your heart sing, well, nothing will. Hobbling down said mountain in the dark with a sleeping 5-year-old and a seriously sprained ankle, however, is an experience you can skip.

And the summer fun continued with my very first Qualtrics summer party. And, let me tell you, this company knows how to party! I was a little worried when they said that the party would be carnival games out on the lawn (you have to admit, that could have been super lame), but how wrong I was. The party was great - you can tell it must have been a pretty good fiesta if my children even agreed to do family pictures at the photo booth!
If you ask for our silly faces, you get quite the variety
The girls practice their flips
They're such little monkeys!
The boys spent most of the evening at the jousting station playing, refereeing, and bouncing around taunting. It was tween boy heaven.
And speaking of kid heaven, the party quickly captured WanYing's heart with the one-two punch of face painting and balloon creations.
Yep, they even had a petting zoo! The boys got their mock-violence, WanYing got face painting, and Sasha got animals - perfection.
And for the first time ever Sasha got in on the face painting action with a rainbow cheetah. And, yes, WanYing decided she needed to try another design.
And as if all of the aforementioned wonders weren't enough, there were even pony rides
Rainbow Cheetah rides ponies - a girl's life is complete


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