All the New Delicious Eats at the 2018 Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival!

Busch Gardens Williamsburg, now the Most Beautiful Theme Park in the World for 28 years running, isn’t just a beautiful park to visit. It doesn’t just have awesome rides for all ages. It also has amazing events that get better every single year. These events have become things I look forward to all year long, and one of my FAVORITES is The Food & Wine Festival.

It’s not just 2 months full of delicious foods from around the world, but 2 months where I know I’m going to gain weight and it’s absolutely worth it. LOOK, I CAN’T HELP IT! IT’S JUST TOO YUMMY!

2018 has made some changes, and additions that I wasn’t sure I was going to love, but yet again, Busch Gardens has surprised me.

There’s so much new this year that I haven’t had a chance to try it all (yet!) — 15 kiosks now in total, up from 13 last year–but I want to take you along on my journey to stuff myself like a pinata, all to be the guinea pig for all of you. THAT’S RIGHT, I DID THIS FOR YOU! And definitely for me… because… man, I regret nothing.

First let’s talk about what’s new-

CUBA

Nestled right outside the New France area of the park, I skipped up to the brightly colored kiosk with my sample passes in tow and ordered one of everything (except flan because I can’t eat flan… I just can’t. I’m sorry).

 

What’s on the menu:

Cuban Sandwich with plantain chips:

Rich and flavorful- the safest food on this menu for picky eaters (my 8 year-old ate most of it).

Rope Vieja (shredded beef in criollo sauce served over black beans & rice):

My personal favorite on this menu. Flavorful and tender- and the serving size is pretty large for just a sample.

Not pictured: Tostones (fried plantains). I don’t even LIKE plantains (at all) but these were so yummy, especially paired with the mojo mayo that comes with them. You get 3 LARGE pieces.

Specialty drinks:

Batido de Trigo (non-alcoholic)

A puffed-wheat shake. Which SOUNDS weird. And you’ll be apprehensive to try, but you HAVE to! It’s like a delicious vanilla milkshake with a twist. Almost like cereal milk. My picky 8 year old’s absolute favorite item of the whole day, which he insisted he will be getting every time we return until Food & Wine is over.

Their alcoholic offering is a Cuba Libre- which is a Cuban rum & coke. You can’t go wrong there! Unlike other mixed drinks at the festival, this is hand-mixed at the kiosk and does not come from a machine (a definite PLUS for me, because I am not fond of frozen drink offerings).

 

South Korea

This is the first time in F&WF history that the offerings have been expanded into the Festa Italia area. I’ve been WAITING for this.

On the menu:

Kimchi Sampler (cabbage, cucumber & daikon radish varieties- non fermented)

I enjoyed this because I’ve never tried kimchi before. Each one is very unique in flavor- the center one being PRETTY spicy. It might be hot, but since all 3 are cold (temp-wise) it’s a perfect snack for a super hot afternoon.

Korean BBQ Pork Ribs

A little bit of a kick to this one- my favorite on this menu! The spicy BBQ glazed rib is served over a Gochujang slaw (which I liked, but none of the rest of my family did).

Not pictured: Drink offerings- Barley tea (non-alcoholic) which I found refreshing but my family did not like, and Korean soju in shot-form.

 

Brazil

The new Brazil kiosk takes the place of the Canada kiosk in New France, which bummed me out because one of my FAVORITE dishes (the cheddar & lager chowder) was at that stand, but the outdoor smoker was the perfect fit for the grilled foods of Brazil.

On the menu:

Churrasco (grilled beef with chimichurri sauce)

I could eat about 20 pounds of this. Not kidding.

Linguica (Brazilian sausage served with grilled portabellas and peppers)

I’m not big on sausage, but the smoke from the grill made this PERFECT and the portabellas were grilled to perfection. I would definitely go back for seconds.

Not pictured: Abacaxi- grilled pineapple with coconut caramel sauce. I don’t eat pineapple, but the kids seemed to really like it. Very sweet!

Drinks:
The Brazilian Lemonade is the specialty non-alcoholic offering, which is frozen and refreshing. The alcoholic offering is the Caipirinha, which I can’t tell you what is in it, but I can tell you I enjoyed it!

 

Japan

Japan is the revamped Asia kiosk, keeping the more popular dishes from the previous year like the lettuce wraps and pot stickers, and adding in some new fare.

California Roll (sushi filled with crab surimi, avocado & cucumber, served with pickled ginger & wasabi

Busch Gardens actually brought in a sushi artist to do demonstrations (they have many of these throughout the park)- and the sushi he makes there will be sold at the Japan kiosk. My 10 year old inhaled these in less than a minute, so I didn’t get to taste, but I assume they were delicious.

Soba Noodle Bowl (dashi broth with pickled vegetables, green onions, edamame, egg, and shitake mushrooms)

This was my favorite of the new dishes. Salty, filling, yet still light enough not to feel like you can’t go straight onto a ride afterward.

Matcha Ice Cream (green tea ice cream served with a sweet soy glaze and sesame cookie)

Light, not too sweet, and that sesame cookie is so good when you use it like a spoon!

Not pictured: Bubble tea (non alcoholic) – just get it. You’ll thank me later
Kombucha by Coca-Cola  (non alcoholic)

 

There are also new offerings at veteran kiosks like the macadamia nut crusted mac & cheese in Hawaii, Strawberry Cheesecake Crepe in Crepes & Coffee, Shrimp Etouffee in the French Quarter, and more. Even some of the offerings of the old Germany stand have been moved inside the Brauhaus. Did I mention the tequila tasting? No? Well, there’s even a tequila tasting now. I didn’t get to any of those yet, but TRUST me I will be getting to ALL of them, even if my waistband yells at me.

The Busch Gardens Food and Wine Festival is running every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday until July 1st. Have you been yet? What was your favorite dish? If you haven’t been, what are you looking most forward to? Let me know in the comments!

 

Posted on May 29, 2018 by Holdin' Holden 1 Comment

If your kids have Homework, so do you

I’ll take “things I didn’t think thoroughly through before doing them” for 2,000 Alex.

What is: giving my eight year old a photo for each year of his life for a school timeline project.

I’m sure his teacher will love the photo of him as an infant dressed as a hotdog for his first Halloween captioned: “EAT ME”

But my mortification is not the point of this blog. Nor is it the fact that he was assigned such a tedious project so close to the end of the year. It’s how it was sent home.

“FAMILY PROJECT”

Fellow parents- those are two of the words we dread the most when put together, because we know exactly what it means. It’s not a simple “can be done in one afternoon with little oversight” deal, no. It certainly does not instill a feeling of family bonding or togetherness. When I hear the words “family project”, a feeling washes over me much like the one I get when my kids ask me to play Monopoly.

Listen, I’m at the point of the school year where I’m spending my mornings staring into empty lunchboxes contemplating if ketchup packets count as vegetables. I’ve clocked out. I’m mentally preparing myself to have the kids, who NEVER EVER GET ALONG EVER, at home, yelling at each other and whining that they’re bored 24 hours a day for three months. Assigning my kid a project toward the end of the year is one thing, keeps’em sharp, but I’ve paid my dues. I finished school. I got my kids through the beginning, middle, and testing portions of the school year- and NOW I have to scramble to do a project?

And not just any project, but one that requires specific photos. Listen. I don’t print photos. The only ones I have printed are in frames. The rest are online, or go into photobooks immediately. I guess I should blame the digital age, here, but times aren’t like they used to be. I don’t have a camera with film that I run to Walmart’s 1-hour photo kiosk to wait impatiently while hoping and praying that ANY of them are usable (usually not). Then there was the hard drive crash of 2012 that erased years worth of photos and had me wishing the 1-hour photo kiosk still existed, and that I had the money to utilize that nonsense (it got pricey!)

The scrambling was real, and stressful. How is my 8 year old going to be able to scrounge out one photo from each year of his life when he still thinks photos of his brother are him? He can’t. “Family” project became MOM project, and forced me to pull photos OUT. OF. FRAMES. Framed photos stuck to a poster board, just HOPING somehow he doesn’t lose any of them so they can go back on the wall.

Speaking of backs, I’m pretty sure you can die from sitting on the floor “helping” your kid with a school project.
FAMILY PROJECT is not for families. Family Project means that we’re going to be doing most of the work while our kids yell at us that we’re doing it wrong, and man, he sure was picky for someone who barely wanted to supervise the process.

Beware before you get sucked into this trap. Any project that gets home and says it is for the “family” to complete is not for the family to complete. It’s homework’s final revenge.

Posted on May 24, 2018 by Holdin' Holden 0 Comment

WIN: Disney Rose Gold Mouse Ears!

This post is sponsored by the EZ Dis Travel Agency– all opinions are my own

 

I never knew I needed anything so badly until I laid my eyes upon rose gold mouse ears! I’ve collected ears since my first trip to Disney as an adult years ago, unfortunately I’ve never been able to grab myself the perfect Disney accessory. Lucky for YOU, you’re not me, because I’m giving away a pair!

Enter to win by leaving a comment below with your FAVORITE Disney park, and get ready to walk Main Street in style! All that’s left to do after that is book your next Disney vacation with EZ Dis (a FREE concierge-style Disney travel agency, booking everything from Disney cruises to adventures all over the world) using the code HH18, and you’re good to go!

 

Entry period is open from 5/21/18 at 8:30pm – 5/25 at 8:30pm (all times in Eastern). Winner has 24 hours to respond to the winning notification e-mail or a new winner will be drawn.

Good luck!

Posted on May 21, 2018 by Holdin' Holden 47 Comments

It’s true: kids really DO ruin your sex life… just not how you think.

The naked body is just a body. I’ve never understood why so many people get so up in arms about skin, nipples, whatever- because it’s all natural. Minus a few key parts, we all have the same things, so what’s the big deal?

I grew up with a lot of body image issues, and low self-esteem, so when it came to my own kids I wanted to make sure they never felt ashamed of how they look. I want them to be comfortable in their own skin. While I’m proud that, so far, I’ve accomplished my goal and they are very free, it means that when I walk into a room there’s about a 75% chance I’m going to see a penis, and I’m not so sure how I feel about it anymore.

I’m the only vagina in a house full of penis people, unless you count my 200lb female dog, who is basically a walking fart and adds zero estrogen to my life. I’m outnumbered. I’m out body odored. I may be the Queen but I still have to vacate the room at times because it just smells like… boy.

As revolting as it can be, at times, you can be conditioned to get used to just about anything. I don’t like it, but flappy penises and rancid farts are commonplace. They don’t faze me as they once did. I have evolved. It’s strange the way your brain warps when you’re surrounded by males all the time. I’m fluent in Minecraft and I don’t even play. I recognize the specific sounds and smells of each of their farts (I truly wish I were kidding). Clothes aren’t about being cute, or matching- they’re bought based on how long they last.

Although I’ve been morphing into my final form for over ten years, now, there are still things you just don’t expect. You can’t expect. It’s impossible. You think you can’t be surprised, because you know your kids better than they know themselves. You know when they are actually sick as opposed to when they feel bad because they need to take a crap. They might annoy you, but they generally don’t surprise you.

You might think there is nothing left your children could say to shock you, because, let’s not gloss over it– kids are fucking weird 24/7. In a decade you’ve basically heard it all. From mispronunciations that sound a little too close to curse words and lewd names for body parts for comfort, to the brutal, filter-free honesty only toddlers can get away with.
Only you haven’t. You never have. Your kid is holding onto the weirdest shit they could possibly think of just to drop you on your ass when you least expect it. That’s how you get gray hairs. That, and years of vomit and diaper blowouts.

Now is the time I want you to put yourself in my shoes. You’re desensitized to fart jokes and dangling danglers. Honestly, you aren’t even shocked anymore, you’re just kind of tired of seeing them all the time. You walk into your very own bedroom to put on your pajamas and veg out when you come upon a naked 10 year old boy. He just kind of stands there, nochalant, junk out, no cares, because you raised him to be comfortable in his own skin (go you!)
You put your hand into a flick-motion and threaten to flick the junk if he doesn’t cover it, and this is when your child, who you grew, gave birth to, raised, and know better than the back of your hand, covers his junk and screeches

“NOT MY NAKED MOLE RAT!”

Your… your what?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you just call your penis a NAKED MOLE RAT?

He’s laughing hysterically, running around the room with it flying. Yes, yes he did.

Do you know what a naked mole rat looks like? Have you ever seen one?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No, there’s no way to ever prepare for that.

Tell my husband I’m sorry, because penises have been ruined for me forever.

Posted on May 17, 2018 by Holdin' Holden 1 Comment

But… I don’t WANT to grow up with my kids!

I may not like it, but I’ve accepted the fact that my kids are growing up. They aren’t babies anymore. They might always be MY babies, but they can make their own food, get themselves ready for school, and do most basic tasks without my assistance. It’s a tough pill to swallow. You want your kids to be more independent, but it’s also incredibly difficult to let go of more and more things they once needed you for.

I wasn’t ready for my oldest to learn about the birds and the bees, but he came home knowing how a sperm fertilizes an egg and laughing at “that’s what she said” jokes, not because he knows they’re supposed to be funny, but because he actually gets them. I wasn’t prepared for either of my kids to constantly smell like funky, dirty, sweaty old Taco Bell meat, but damn if I don’t make them both put on deodorant twice a day now.

If we knew anything at all about parenthood before we go into parenthood (we don’t)- we’d go in prepared to be completely unprepared. Unfortunately, we think we know everything. Our family, friends, and TV has prepared us for these very moments. Only they haven’t. You might have an idea of what’s coming down the pipeline, but you can never prepare for how it feels, how it weighs on you, how it can make you so full of joy and sadness at the same time.

Even when you get ‘used’ to the emotional rollercoaster (as much as you can)- something will inevitably blindside you. Did you ever have an aunt, when you got sassy, told you she’d smack your attitude into next week? That familiar smack came yesterday afternoon once I’d brought the kids home from school.

My 10 year old walked into the room and plopped down a piece of thick cardstock. On it were his class photos, but not just any class photos- his elementary school graduation photo. Because in 30 short days, he will officially be a middle schooler. This isn’t news to me. We’ve already been to the open house, seen the classrooms, talked about extracurriculars and potential clubs he could join. Though it’s still an insane, horrible feeling knowing my baby is a f’ing TWEEN, I’d come to terms with it. What choice did I have?

There, in the pit of my stomach where I usually feel the dread of “my baby is growing up”, a new feeling emerged. A sinister, awful, horrible feeling. One that informed me that it isn’t my baby growing up that’s giving me anxiety. It’s not that Holden will be in middle school– it’s that I will be the mom of a middle schooler.

The feeling twisted my gut. In the distance, Metamucil, control top pantyhose, and Advil called my name. HOW in the world am I going to be the mom of a middle schooler? When did I get this old?
I know he’s growing up, but I wasn’t ready to be this grown up.

Being an elementary school mom is easy. You’re still young because your kid is still a tiny thing. Your kid’s a breeze because their days are full of macaroni art and recess. Now I’m going to deal with hormones, and algebra, and… other old moms.

Can I hold him back for the sole purpose of still being a young mom with 2 young kids who think she’s the tits, instead of being a crusty old middle school mom who has a tween that finds her embarrassing? Listen, Middle School Moms, I’m sure many of you are awesome, laid back, whatever- and you’re over there cussing me out because I referred to you as crusty, and I swear I don’t meant to offend, but I hope you realize that my insides are panicking, and it’s sort of like turning 50 when you still feel 30, and you feel like it’s ALL OVER AND DOWNHILL FROM HERE and I’m not ready to turn that corner.

It was hard enough for my kids to start kindergarten and be referred to as “Holden’s Mom” for the first time instead of my name because that’s the only thing they knew me as- but I just got used to being an Elementary School Mom and now I’m expected to grow up with my kid and that was never part of the deal.

Posted on May 15, 2018 by Holdin' Holden 0 Comment