Tuesday, June 23, 2009


NHRA Drag Racing at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, September 2008.

For more interpretations of noisy, check out Photo Friday.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The (Not-So) Incredible Pizza Company

The Incredible Pizza Company has been in our city for almost a year now. We've been wanting to go, but never found the right time or opportunity. Since the boys did so well at their swimming lessons this year, we decided a treat was in order - a trip to The Incredible Pizza Company!

We got there shortly after 6 p.m., and it wasn't crowded at all. It looked like a nice place. Then things started going downhill rather quickly.

The Cost
To get in, you have to buy the buffet meal. You can't just go in to play the games. The buffet charge for adults is $8.49; children in the "upper range" are $6.49 each. I don't recall the prices for younger children. It cost us nearly $40 just for the buffet!

The Game Cards
The boys read enough books/hours through the Mesquite public library's reading program to meet the requirements for each of them to get a free $5 game card there. When we got the cards from the library, the expiration dates had been marked through. When I handed them to the cashier, she almost didn't honor them because she couldn't read the date. I told her we had gotten them from the library that day and they were already marked through. She reluctantly gave us the two game cards. She also couldn't tell us how much the games cost, but she did say we could purchase additional game cards later. After that, we decided we'd check things over before adding any more to the ones we already had.

The Buffet
Their claim:"We make over 30 different varieties of pizza each day, with three different crusts – from original to lavosh, to deep pan!" (from their website)

The good news: Their pizza is good.

The reality: Once we found the plates, napkins, and forks, we wandered over to a rather large-looking buffet area - only to be extremely disappointed to find just a handful of pizzas there. There are two round buffet tables for pizzas. Only one was used the 2 hours we were there, even when we were leaving and the line to get in was about 10-15 people long. And this was on a Friday night!

When Caleb and I made our second trip for pizza, there were only 4 on the whole buffet. Billy went up shortly after we got back and said they had just put out one fresh pizza. When I made my third trip (Yes, I know - but I was going to eat my money's worth after paying that much!), there still wasn't much to choose from - maybe 4 different varieties. The 5 or 6 other people in line didn't look happy with the slim selection, either.

The selection of desserts was more varied than the pizza. They had cherry and peach cobblers; cinnamon rolls; and chocolate chip, peanut butter, and oatmeal cookie pizzas. I didn't try any of them, so I'm not sure of the quality, but the boys really enjoyed the cinnamon rolls.

They also have a salad bar (which I didn't spend any time at), pasta, and baked potatoes. Jacob liked the spaghetti.

The Dining Rooms
There were a few different themed dining rooms to choose from. One of the larger ones was reserved for a party, so we ate in the 50's style diner. There were 3 or 4 families eating in there, but nearly all the tables were littered with leftover plates, cups, and trash. Billy counted 26 dirty tables. We managed to find a clean one, though we should've gone to a different room. No one came in to clean the tables off until we were nearly finished eating, and they were really slow about it.

As we walked around to the games area, we saw several smaller private party rooms. Some were reserved; others were dark.

The Games
Their claim: The signs on the outside of the building read: "Golf", "Bowling", "Go-Karts", and "Fairgrounds" (and "Buffet").

The reality: The golf, as expected, is mini-golf. I'm not sure how many holes it had, but it's a glow-in-the-dark theme. It looked okay, but one round for the boys would've taken almost all of their $5 game cards. And if you wanted to play, you had to find the go-kart track worker to get balls and clubs.

The bowling claim is very misleading. What we found were about 4 or 5 mini-bowl lanes that used small wooden balls. I had taken socks for us in case we needed to use bowling shoes, but they aren't required for mini-bowling. The cost was $2.50 for a 5-frame game. We skipped it. (Their website does note that not all locations have the regular bowling lanes. We've got 2 games of "free" bowling every day until Oct. 31, so that wasn't too big a deal for the boys.)

The go-karts were what had the boys' interest, but they don't meet the requirements for driving them. Caleb is tall enough to drive the slower cars, but Jacob isn't. He'd have to ride in a slower car with Billy or me. Also, you can't wear sandals or flip-flops to drive or ride, so we wouldn't have been able to do it anyway. The cost was $4.50, which would've taken nearly all the boys' "money".

They also had some bumper cars, which looked like it would've been fun had they been working. The area was dark and there was no indication that you could even ride on them.

Their "Fairgrounds" is like a smaller version of Chuck E. Cheese's. Most of the games would scan the game cards, but some were token games only. Most of the games spit out tickets to redeem for "prizes". What I found disturbing is the games are not the same price and can vary from $.35 (the least expensive) to $3.00, maybe more. When I first saw the 35-cent games, I knew the boys were going to end up with money left over on their cards (which have a note on the back to keep them because they can be reloaded).

Billy went around with Caleb, who spent most of his game card on driving games, which didn't give tickets. Those cost $1.10 or more. He ended up with $.75 left, so he played a few ticket games. He got to spend his 14 tickets (rounded up to 20) on two finger cuffs.

I went around with Jacob, who spent most of his game card playing 35-cent skee ball. He ventured out and played a few quick-response type games, but he always made his way back to skee ball. He never played anything that cost more than 35 cents. There were a few token-only games he wanted to play, but we didn't have any. It was only after we finished playing our games that I noticed a machine where you could scan your card for tokens. I don't remember how many tokens $1 would get you. Jacob had accumulated 78 tickets, which they rounded to 80. He chose two sets of vampire teeth, a bouncy ball, and a mini frisbee.

The boys had a combined total of 15 cents left on their game cards, which is better than I had expected. I can overlook 15 cents.

The Verdict
We won't be going back. We felt it was a total rip-off, especially when you can get more for less elsewhere. And not once during our entire time there did any employee approach us to see if we were satisfied with things or ask if we were having fun. As we were on our way out, we had to walk around a group of employees who were standing around in the game area, laughing and completely oblivious to everyone around them. No one spoke to us as we left, no "Thank you!" or "Come again!"

If you want a good buffet, I'd recommend Cici's Pizza. They have a large selection of pizza to choose from, and the employees are always friendly and go out of their way to make sure you have a good experience there. They check to see if your favorite pizza is on the buffet. If it's not, they'll immediately request it for you and even bring several slices to your table as soon as it's ready. It's very affordable. The price of an adult buffet is $4.99, not including a soft drink. Kids's prices are $1.99, and it's free for ages 3 and under. They always thank you for coming when you leave. (See my comparison of Cici's Pizza and Pizza Inn here.)

If you want decent pizza and games, I'd recommend Chuck E. Cheese's. Yes, it's loud and kids are running around all over the place, but the all the games use tokens and you don't end up with leftovers you couldn't use. The games give more tickets, so the kids can get more "prizes", but the prizes at both are comparable.

If you want good bowling, go to a bowling alley. Plano Super Bowl is good. I don't know how much games are, but everything is electronic - even the gutter guards. Shoe rentals are $3.75, which seems steep to me. If you're going to bowl often, buy your own shoes at Academy or Dick's Sporting Goods. (I don't recommend that for children whose feet will outgrow them in a season, but it's perfect for adults!)

If you want mini-golf and go-karts, go to Celebration Station. You get more holes of golf and the go-kart track is longer. Some even have bumper boats, batting cages, and arcade games. Yes, it's outdoors, but if you go in the evenings, it's bearable. Or you can just go during the cooler months.

If you've been to The Incredible Pizza Company and had a great experience, I'd love to hear about it. I'd hate to think they're the same all over. And if you know of other fun pizza/game or golf/go-kart places in the DFW area, please share!

Sunday, June 7, 2009


The second photography assignment I gave myself at the Arboretum was benches. There are benches everywhere, and I know I would've gotten several more shots if we had ventured farther than we did. But we were limited on time and Jacob's first stop had to be the Texas Discovery Gardens. No water walls for me...

I took one picture that I thought would be near perfect, but I forgot to check my settings - and check the image right after I took it. It was too dark. I'll play around with Photoshop and see if I can salvage it. Otherwise, I'll have to find it again next time we visit.

Friday, June 5, 2009


My friend Laura is a great photographer and has inspired me to take better photos. While reading her blog one day, I came across a link to a photography site about giving yourself a photography assignment when you go somewhere for the umpteenth time. We go to the zoo and the Arboretum frequently, but how many pictures can you take of the same thing? I was inspired!

Jacob and I went to the Arboretum yesterday and I was excited to take on my assignment of photographing circles, the idea suggested in the blog article I had read. Here are a some of the circles I found.

Hydrangeas are almost circular...

While I was there, I found something else to serve as a photography assignment. Those are coming soon... :o)


seat of an old plow, Dallas Arboretum

This is one of the shots from my Circles photo assignment.

See more "Metal" at Photo Friday.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Pizza Inn vs. Cici's Pizza

Jacob and I ate lunch today at Pizza Inn. We were on our way to the Arboretum and Cici's was the other direction, so we stopped in. After I ate my first few bites of pizza, I decided Cici's is the better choice.

1. Cici's has more pizza choices on the buffet. Not only do they have more space for it, they put out a lot of different varieties.

2. You can request special pizzas at Cici's; Pizza Inn has certain varieties they keep putting out. Several times I've been to Cici's, I've requested a veggie pizza. Caleb always wants Alfredo cheese pizza, and if there's not one already on the buffet, they get it right out. Pizza Inn's standards are hamburger; pepperoni; sausage, peppers, and onions (which was pretty good); buffalo chicken; ham (which looked really greasy); pepperoni & jalapeno; and a supreme with pepperoni, sausage or hamburger, onions, bell pepper, mushrooms, and green and black olives.

3. Cici's has better dessert options. They always have the apple pizza and the brownies on the buffet. Pizza Inn had a tasty cinnamon crunch type dessert as a standard, then they varied between a Bavarian cream pizza and one with cherry topping. Neither one looked very appetizing.

4. Cici's is slightly less expensive. The boys and I can eat there for $11 or so; Jacob and I ate at Pizza Inn for nearly $10.

5. Cici's pizza tastes better.

Pizza Inn did have a few things in its favor.

1. The salad bar was better. They have the build-your-own kind, whereas Cici's has two kinds of salad already prepared. Well, three if you count the pasta salad.

2. Pizza Inn's pasta bar gives you a choice between sauce or meatsauce. Cici's only has sauce. I've never gottent the pasta at either place, so I can't vouch for taste.

Jacob said he prefers Pizza Inn, but I think that's just because it was new and he was disappointed with the games the last time he went to Cici's. I definitely prefer Cici's, and since I'm driving and buying, that's where we'll be going from now on.