Sunday, November 30, 2014

White Thanksgiving

Confession: We are most definitely "eat to live, not live to eat" people. Hamburger Helper totally counts as a home-cooked meal. And, although we can and have put together some pretty lovely and inspired holiday tables, when the choice comes down to:
a) skiing and eating out
b) spending all day cooking, 30 minutes eating, and then 2 hours doing dishes

Well, the a's have it every time!

2014 marks our second Thanksgiving in a row celebrated with gratitude for time together as a family, God's amazing creation, and the Greatest Snow on Earth.

And it was fabulous.
Lift selfies are our favorites
Ben dresses loud and skis even louder
Pink pants twinners strut our stuff
It was such a beautiful day - I think we could see all the way our house!
Groomers, pow, sun, or shadow, I'm just happy to be free-heeling
Like I said, he skis loud
Sasha is looking good and very excited for ski team to start up this year!
We're not sure who Sam was racing, but apparently he won
The Yingster totally rocked the blue squares
Sash shows off her mad park skills
A beautiful day spent with my very favorite people - the boys were even sweet enough to ski with us all day (this may have been influenced by the lack of black diamond slopes open, confining them to their sisters' ability level, but I'm still grateful they stuck with us!)
Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Picky Pizza Posters - Domino's

The ultimate quest for the worst pizza experience in Utah Valley

My last encounter with Domino’s Pizza (second largest pizza chain in the U.S.) was in the era of the Noid and 30-minutes-or-less guarantee. Candidly, I felt no loss from my 15-year Domino’s hiatus. But I recently heard that Domino’s was going through a bit of a pizza renaissance and knew it was time to experience Domino’s through the eyes of the picky pizza posters.

So, last week we ordered ourselves some Domino’s and are happy to report that Domino’s still ranks among the worst pizza money can buy.


High tech. Computer monitor order board shows my name and gives an expected wait time until pizza is ready. There’s even a quality check to be sure our pie passes Domino’s stringent standards for excellence. Dining area has a whole three chairs. Alas, no bathrooms in the "restaurant".

Price for a large cheese

$12.99 ($7.99 with online coupon)


Best selection in the house! Oh, wait, we were in our house. Free refills! Kinda.

Pizza Impressions

Fluffy soft cheese. The crust was equally soft - the boys remarked that it was like the pizza made from a cloud. It really was strangely unsubstantial. Did I even eat pizza? Maybe, maybe not.

Dad: Is the sauce robust like the box says?
Ben: I can’t even taste the sauce.
Dad: I guess not.

Ben: The flavor is good but the texture is weird.
WanYing: I don’t even know what that word means! Texture?

And that was the whole point. There was no texture. Eww.


2/6 slices

As a reminder, here's our rating system:
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

Maybe we’ll wait another 15 years and try it again.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Finishing the Cycling Year in Style

You know I'm a "never a bad day to ride" cycler, but with short days and snow on the horizon my riding days will soon be eclipsed by powder days! Even with losing 5 weeks of prime riding season to a super lame ankle injury, I managed to hit 3,000 miles in 2014 this weekend and I have to admit that sounds like a pretty good number. The ankle's almost healed now (I tore the membrane between the tib and fib mountain biking in July and it still swells up when I exercise. Like I said, super lame) and I'm excited for an even better 2015 season.

I had a bunch of awesome rides this season. The highlights were the Huntsman 140 (140 miles in 10 hours including stops - I was thrilled!) and a tandem podium finish at the Tour de Donut but the very best ride of all was completing the Wonder Woman Century with my mom!

Wonder Woman was the perfect ride - the weather was fantastic, we looked unbelievably good and totally on-theme, and we even got cheers along the way from our very favorite pint-sized support crew. We did have a small sock-cape-stuck-in-chain-incident (like Edna Mode says, No Capes!) but even losing a sock cape couldn't dampen our spirits!

My mom did awesome and slogged through her first full century with a better average speed than she had in her last 75 - that's a pretty great accomplishment for your first century and at 4500 feet no less! Finishing up 100 miles in a day is definitely a "dig deep" kind of experience and she definitely finished the ride a true Wonder Woman.

So here's to a great 2014 cycling season, a fluffy 2014-15 ski season, and an even better 2015 riding year to come!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fall Break in Moab

October was a big travel month for us! After camping in the world's largest organism and the boys' early-season ski training at Copper Mountain and before our family adventures in St. Louis, we enjoyed a fall break trip to one of our favorite camping spots - Moab Utah!

We hit our favorite locations and even discovered a new one - Moab never ceases to amaze. The weather was perfect, the company entertaining, and we only had one medical emergency*, so all in all it was a hugely successful fall break.

Fooling around at our favorite spot in Moab - Sand Dune Arch in Arches National Park
Romping at Dead Horse Point
Don't worry, the drop wasn't quite as dramatic as it looks in this photo.
We made it to the point!
We spent a lot of time climbing and posing for photos, two favorite hobbies
Ah, yes, never boring
Sasha was determined to take a photo and she did a darn fine job!
One of our camping buddies recommended an off-the-beaten-path drive between Dead Horse Point and the Potash Road and it was a blast! Rainy definitely couldn't have made it up the road (it got pretty intense in parts), but with gravity at our backs we enjoyed an adventurous "short cut" through the BLM land.

Totally not a boring ride

Several members of our family enjoyed the ride. Only 2 are crying in this photo.
It was a beautiful drive! Here we are stopped with Canyonlands National Park in the distance.
Good views, good friends, good times.
Next stop, Corona Arch. Yes, there were people swinging. Yes, it was terrifying, even from below.
Ben adds his cairns to the collection
Love ourselves some desert hiking
Last stop - sledding on the giant sand dune
Running down a giant sand hill totally makes you feel like a rockstar. Huffing and puffing up said giant sand hill is far less fun.

*Hey, you actually read through the post to learn about the medical emergency! Way to persevere. On our final night in Moab, WanYing was taking her sock off in her sleeping bag after I put her to bed and accidentally pulled off the bandages around her toes a week early. It was super traumatic for all involved - the stitches were still raw, WanYing was panicked, and I was all geared up for a late-night trip to the Moab ER (if there even is an ER in Moab!). But in a moment of brilliance I thought to call the SLC Shriner's Hospital and got straight through to the Charge Nurse. She agreed with my more rational side (the side that wasn't planning to head to the ER) that since everything looked ok with Ying's sutures we could just bandage it back up and hit the hay. Shew! Shriner's saves the day yet again! She ended up with a little infection in her toes, but nothing some Neosporin couldn't solve once we went to get her bandages officially removed the next week.

Friday, November 14, 2014

St. Louis Adventures

Admittedly, a Halloween trip to St. Louis, Mo is not your average vacation, but we Morningstars are anything but cliched!  My cousin, Teddy, in an equally non-cliched move, opted for a Halloween wedding and we figured that if we were going to cart 6 people halfway across the US we were going to make a proper vacation of it!

We had a fantastic exploring a new city and catching up with seldom-seen family. The weather was great, the company delightful, and we managed to pack 5 days chock full of Gateway to the West adventures.

There was no question about it, we new our first excursion had to be to The Gateway Arch. This is mostly because The Arch was pretty much the only thing we knew about St. Louis. To be frank, we didn't even know it was called The Gateway Arch. As with everything in St. Louis, we went with fairly low expectations and no preconceived notions and had a fabulous time! Maybe the key to a fantastic vacation is zero preparation or knowledge of the place you're visiting?

The girls were so funny as they eventually reconciled that the arch was actually a giant building - a building we were going inside! Once they understood the plan, they were totally stoked.
Man, those 5-person elevator pods were small
We made it!
They say you can see 30 miles from the top of the arch and we believe it!
A contingent of us went over to Illinois to get another view on the arch - it's cool from all angles
Day 2 of St. Louis exploration was a big one. We started the day at the very cool Missouri Botanical Garden, one of the oldest gardens in the nation. In happy coincidence, I'm reading Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi which, funnily enough, even mentions the Missouri Botanical Garden.

There were two highlights of the gardens:
  1. The koi in the pond were ginormous. Terrifyingly huge. Awesome.
  2. We got to walk around the gardens with glasses of wine purchased at a garden cafe. St. Louis is a wonderland!
Sasha and Grammy inspect the garden map at lunch.
Day 2 Stop 2 was The Magic House, the St. Louis Children's Museum.

It was so stinking cool! The Magic House is an old mansion built in 1901 and converted to a children's museum in 1979. It houses new discovery down every hidden stairway and hidden in every attic room, and we all had a shockingly good time (sorry, couldn't resist the Van de Graaff humor!).
Detective Sasha inspects the ducts for clues in the Sherlock Holmes exhibit (you can tell she's undercover by the glasses)
Ben the Bubble Boy!
WanYing tries out her constructing skills
And of course we tried out some amazing St. Louis BBQ. I think we licked every plate clean, from the fried corn (pictured) to the burnt end brisket and everything in between.

Wedding photo day was admittedly challenging because:
  1. We had to dress up for family pictures
  2. We had to wait for our turn
  3. The kids were dying to put on their costumes (remember the part about a Halloween wedding? we weren't kidding!)
But never fear, we perservered and got some mighty fine photos in the process.

Sasha looks adorable, WanYing makes a little mischief.
Beautiful girls!
We do clean up nicely
And we can get awfully crazy no matter how fancy our outsides look!
Saturday brought a family trip to the St. Louis Zoo, which is both very cool and free. Unless you have to purchase carrousel, train, and children's zoo tickets. Which, of course, we did.
The Children's Zoo totally paid off - there were goats that needed grooming and you know our girls were up for the challenge!
Ugh. Goats.
The boys were thrilled to get a whole gaggle of people interested in this exhibit. It turns out that if you express interest in a cage, even an empty cage, people will crowd around to see what's so interesting!
And we concluded our visit with the best outing of all - The City Museum! The City Museum is tough to describe... it's like a giant playground for all ages (all ages willing to scramble up, through, and around small spaces and get some very bruised knees in the process!). It was amazing.

Part sculpture, part playground, all fun!
Like we said, you have to be ok with small spaces..
...and lots of climbing and maybe some heights as well!
3- and 4-story slides abound
As do 11-story ones!
Seriously, we all slept very soundly after all that climbing
Why walk on the platform when you can wiggle through under it?
There was always a new nook, cranny, ladder, or slide to discover
The view from the rooftop ferris wheel was almost as good as the arch! But a lot colder :)
Ok, this was the only time I got really nervous. Climbing into the cage at the top of the giant dome seemed like a good idea from the bottom. From within the cage it was very disconcerting.
The City Museum was a fantastic end to a really great vacation. If we ever find ourselves in St. Louis, I have a feeling we'll be visiting The City Museum again. Repeatedly.


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