Disneyland–Tips, anyone?

Disneyland LogoWe’re going to Disneyland.  I’ve already gotten some great tips,  but I would like to hear even more.  Please share your  wisdom born of experience.  What would you do differently?  What did you do that worked out really well?  I  am especially interested in advice from people who took both younger and older children to Disneyland.  Did you split up and have one adult go with the older child(ren) and another stay with the younger children?  Did you do lots of switching off?  How did you prepare younger children for the potentially frightening rides?  Also, what did you carry with you into Disneyland and how did you carry it?  Water, chapstick, ponchos?  In  a purse, a backpack, a waistpack?

Great New Blog: Late Enough

I spent too much time today reading the blog archives of a person I don’t know and haven’t met.* A newly discovered really good blog is a pleasure. After a few posts convince you that you want to read more, the excitement of clicking on “archive” and seeing the months unfurl waiting to be read is like looking at a field of snow no one has touched yet: it’s waiting for you. 

Late Enough has only a smallish archive, but I’ve read enough to be excited to see more.  The genre is classic mommy blog: a daily life answer to what it’s like in the trenches.  I found this blog by clicking something over at Every Day I Write the Book.  So, not only does Kacy have a great blog of her own (she was already on my blogroll), she also has some really interesting people following her blog.    

* “A person I don’t know and haven’t met” is redundant, but I like how it sounds.

Inside a Utah Caucus

I was surprised by the degree to which attendance felt like a statement of belief or even a commitment. It was a bit intimidating. As I approached the door someone (a friend, actually) challenged me and said, “Are you here because you are really a Republican or because you just wanted to come to our caucus?” Good question. I told him that if I belonged at either caucus it was more the Republican one. But on reflection, I don’t know. I would love to run for public office someday, but one of the things holding me back (besides not enjoying the appropriate type of extroversion in group settings) will be my inability to say, “As a lifelong Democrat . . .” or “As a lifelong Republican. . .” The truth is, the labels don’t fit that well. Also, I have been surprised by how much they vary from location to location. When I lived in Texas, I attended a Republican caucus and discovered that I was not a Republican. In California, I discovered that I was not a Democrat. Now in Utah . . . can’t I just be a person who thinks carefully about the issues and strives to be well-informed? Can’t I just be someone who thinks Bob Bennett has done a pretty good (not great) job and that seniority is an important issue? No–not if I want to have a voice.

One thing that bothered me in the caucus I attended tonight was that the precinct chair suggested that it would be unethical to run as a county or state delegate unless one accepted the county Republican platform in its entirety. [Is this true? I hope not. Please someone tell me chapter and verse of why it's not]. I am curious as to whether he made liars out of those candidates. Did all of them accept every point in the platform? I couldn’t have. Among other issues, I am not a fan of “consumer choice in education.” The platform seemed to be clearly pro-voucher [I didn't study the platform carefully though, it was read aloud to us] and while I believe that parents should be able to choose where they send their children, I believe the government has a proper interest in directing its limited resources towards public schools and education for citizenship. I suspect I wouldn’t be able to endorse every point in the Democratic platform either.

The turnout tonight was fabulous. Apparently people were riled up by healthcare and channeled their feelings into caucus attendance. Two years ago there were 25, tonight there were 75. One problem was that that meant there were a lot of newbies (including me–I can’t figure out where I was two years ago). For those of us rusty on Robert’s Rules of order, things started happening awfully fast. Before we knew it, the precinct chair and vice-chair had been chosen–running almost unopposed and having offered no explanation of their philosophy as delegates. That made sense because it had been explained that the chair and vice-chair were not automatically delegates. Then, after the vote it was discovered that the chairs automatically serve as delegates so suddenly rather than 5 county delegates to elect, we had only 3, and instead of 2 state delegates, we had only 1. That was a big disappointment.

I enjoyed hearing from the candidates for county delegate. I asked a lot of questions. I hope this was not too annoying to my neighbors, but as I saw that I did not have a future as a delegate, I thought a good use of my time was determining who would be a good delegate to vote for. Only 2 or 3 candidates out of 8 were informed about anything going on in the state legislature. When pressed on issues, 4 candidates mentioned that they were for stricter immigration controls. It was another moment that made me wonder whether I had caucused in the right place. Is there room in the big tent for me? I liked the part of the Republican platform that mentioned the word “humane” in connection with immigration reform.

I was disappointed in the run-up to the vote for state delegates. Someone made a motion to limit the candidate statements for state delegate to two minutes. [It was getting late!] It was promptly seconded and passed. Before I attend the next caucus, I am going to figure out how to delay a vote on a motion in order to have a discussion on it. It made no sense that we heard from our county delegate candidates at length and were able to ask them questions but only heard two minutes from our state delegate candidates. It was the hope of electing good state delegates that brought me to the caucus so this was a real disappointment. Next time, I think I would like to make a motion that state delegates be elected before county delegates. If we are going to run out of time for debate, let’s skimp on the county delegates, not the state delegates.

On Bob Bennett: of the seven candidates for state delegate, only one suggested that he would likely vote for Bennett. The others were committed to “new blood” to greater and lesser degrees. I assumed that this meant that the sole pro-Bennett candidate would survive to run in the run-off election we held, because the other six would split the anti-Bennett vote. However, he did not; he was defeated. If my precinct is representative (and I don’t know that it is) Bennett should be very, very concerned about his prospects at the May convention.

Added later:  Here is a NYTimes article that describes Senator Bennett’s situation well.  I fear getting a senator more conservative than Bennett.  What would that mean?

Like: Urban Spoon

I want to recommend  the website Urban Spoon.  Just like Amazon, TripAdvisor, and Yelp, it features user reviews.  Urban Spoon focuses exclusively on restaurants.  I like that  Urban Spoon is an aggregator–not only does it have user reviews that people type in when they visit the site, but it also gathers critics’ reviews from major newspapers and magazines.  For bloggers, they offer “spoonbacks.”  If you put the Urban Spoon image in a review on your blog, they will publish your post on Urban Spoon with a link back to your blog.  It gives tiny audience bloggers like me a chance to feel famous (and I can’t help it, I love that!). 

Urban Spoon has a section for  many of the major cities in the United States.  I was pleased to see that they had one for Salt Lake.  I was even more pleased to realize that American Fork, Orem, and Provo (as well as several other small  Utah cities) are listed as neighborhoods of greater Salt Lake.  I was surprised to find how much information they  had about  restaurants in Orem and Provo.  

Urban Spoon also features a very simple thumbs up/thumbs down rating system for restaurants.  I admire the simplicity of “like/don’t like,”, but I wish they also offered an “it’s okay” option.  Also, of course there is no way to tell whether my vote of “like it” for Golden Corral is because it makes my children so happy or if it is because I am under the impression that it is incredible gourmet fare!  But I figure that is what the review section is for.  The simple rating system does have some utility.  If you sort a city or neighborhood by popularity, the consistently people pleasing restaurants do rise to the top.  This is especially valuable if you are looking for a restaurant to take a diverse group of people to.

Other features I appreciate are the wishlist (when you read a great review you can add the restaurant to your wishlist so that you remember to try it in the future), the maps (showing restaurants you’ve reviewed, or restaurants on your wishlist, or Chinese restaurants in a given neighorhood)  and the ability to compare reviews and wishlists with friends.  Give it a try;  see what you think! 

 Have you already tried Urban Spoon?  Do you use another dining review site like Yelp?  Why do you like it?  I was a fan of  TripAdvisor’s reviews, but TripAdvisor has less information about each restaurant, lacks the critics reviews, doesn’t offer a spoonback type feature, and the majority of the reviews are written from the perspective of the tourist rather than the townie.  Urban Spoon has won my allegiance.

Blue Lemon

blue lemon pictureI visited the Blue Lemon restaurant with high expectations.   The good thing about going to a place that has received a lot of hype is that even if you are disappointed, you might still have a pretty good experience.  That describes how I felt about the Blue Lemon. 

To enjoy Blue Lemon, you need to go knowing what to expect.  I hadn’t read the reviews carefully enough. 

What Blue Lemon is:  Blue Lemon is  upscale.  The place has a San Francisco vibe, the decor is trendy and pleasing.  They serve gourmet-ish food, locally sourced and seasonal food.  [Um, how seasonal & locally-sourced can you be around here?  Pdad ordered the fruit salad, and I'll just say, I want to see the local farmer who manages cantaloupe in March!].  Healthy food (not fried–except for the sweet potato fries?, not microwaved).  Blue Lemon offers beautiful presentation.  There will be artful splashes of sauce surrounding something lovely.  The food looks good.  Rest assured, your Blue Lemon food will taste good. 

What Blue Lemon is not:  Blue Lemon is not fine dining.  It is not the place for a romantic date.  (It _is_ child friendly if you are willing to spend $$ for children’s food).  Blue Lemon is large  and also noisy.  You will stand in line and walk down the counter to order–almost a cafeteria type ordering experience–although they do bring the food to your table.  The good news about it not being a fine dining experience is that your food will arrive quickly.  The bad news is that these are not cafeteria portions.  You will get a moderate, Europeanish portion of food.  You will not pay cafeteria prices.  Fortunately, you would probably not expect to, given the quality and character of the food.  If Blue Lemon were a full  fine dining experience, the prices would be a bargain. 

The service at Blue Lemon is not top notch.  Perhaps they are victims of their own popularity.  However, it doesn’t matter why; poor service is still not as good as good service.  They were completely disorganized.  We ordered a fancy drink and had trouble getting anyone to tell us where to find it or when it was coming.  (Aside: Do not order a coffee-less fancy coffee drink.  BAD IDEA.  I don’t know if it is because the coffee makes the drink or if Blue Lemon just isn’t good at drinks in general, but the one we tried was a very poor cousin to the Wendy’s Frosty at 4 times the price.)  We wanted to order one of the allegedly fabulous vanilla Nanaimo bars at the Blue Lemon Bistro next door and the counter help (who also help at Blue Lemon) had apparently gone on extended hiatus or forgotten about the Bistro.  It was very frustrating.  In the end, we had to leave without dessert.                       

All in all: I am glad that I experienced Blue Lemon.  I would probably go again, especially if I happened to be in the area or if someone invited me.  I am a fan of tasty and beautiful food.  I don’t mind the small portions or the higher than Fresh Mex prices.  However, the large and noisy ambience isn’t what I’m looking for.  Child-friendly dining can be  good, but most children would not be ready to appreciate this food.   Good service is a must–I hope for it at fast food places–I expect it at places where the prices are higher.  Blue Lemon has  room for improvement.      

 If you go: Blue Lemon 11073 N. Alpine Highway, Highland, UT 84003 (801) 756-7993.  Open from 11:00 a.m.-9 p.m. (they close early!) every day but Sunday.  

Others’ Reviews:

Daily Herald

Deseret News

Samantics

Utah Valley

Vanilla Joy

Blue Lemon on Urbanspoon