Tag Archives: reviews

Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Williamsburg: cursed (by my own offspring)

Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream with Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom

Racing heartbeat. Rapid breathing. Unrestrained screams of sheer terror. Public mocking from those you gave birth to. It’s all just a day at the park, if you’re me and that park is Busch Gardens Williamsburg during Howl-O-Scream – Cursed.

Some people get totally into Turkey. Others bring the awesome to decking halls (um, lights synced to music and everything). Me? Well, Halloween is my thing.

I own no less than two full, instructional-grade skeletons. You won’t find a single cuddly black cat or smiling jack-o-lantern in my house. I’ve spent decades perfecting the art of scaring small children – even a handful of grown men. People drive from other cities to test their nerve at our doorstep on Samhain.

I do the scaring. Not the other way around… or is it?

I’m not even being ironic with that opening paragraph, people. I screamed. I was mocked. This weekend I suffered the revenge of countless trick-or-treating folk and new family tradition, (a-la-Rosemary’s-baby) was born.

It all started out rather slowly. The park we’d visited in the summer had gone through a creepy makeover. Gone were the Union Jacks that hung in London Square, replaced with posters of Jack The Ripper. Jack-O-Lanterns were strung amongst the trees and some scary spiders lurked. But other than the ghoulishly awesome upgrades, the park remained the same. 

Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Emily rode her favorite flying dragon. We enjoyed some Guinness in Ireland, the big kids waited forever to take on Verbolten. Then, with the sinking of the sun, came an eery sound track and time for the small ones to head back to the hotel with dad. 

I stayed behind with Ryan and Kaytie to check out the scares. Yeah, like some theme park is going to be “terrifying” – pfft!

We waited in line for our turn in, “Root of All Evil,” a greenhouse themed haunted house walk through. The wait was long, but there were vendors along the route peddling refreshments, and trinkets. note: the barbequed scallop skewers – worth the waiting in line. Time with my teen and Marine made the waiting fly by.

Walking into the maze I was keyed up to get new ideas for this year’s festivities – then the wall came alive and growled at me! I screamed like a 4 year old, and it was on. At every twist and turn another something, or someone popped out at me and nearly caused me to pee!

This isn’t your mall parking lot “haunted” attraction people. IT. IS. SCARY. I haven’t involuntarily cursed that much in the presence of mixed company since my days in the Navy. Chased through fog so dense that you can’t see two people ahead of you, actors lurk through the hanging vines emitting noises that are decidedly non-human. Emerging back  into the open air, you might think you were safe… until a guy with the chainsaw chases you!

A CHAINSAW!

At one point the adrenaline coursed so rapidly through me that I picked my 20 year old son – a muscular, solid US Marine- up off his feet and tossed him at .. whatever the hell that was that just tried to grab me!

Weak, shaken and down right terrified I turned to my kids for succor. Wrong answer. The two of them where breathless with hysterical laughter.. at me.. THEIR MOTHER!!

At least the small crowd that gathered to point and laugh, having been near me in the maze, weren’t related.

Busch Gardens Howl o scream

Naturally this meant we had to head over to, the “Catacombs” for more. But first, we had to get there. Through Canada where it seems there was some sort of biological disaster. I honestly don’t know because I was hiding behind my son – who pointed me out to nearly every actor roaming the scene all too happy to take part in a game of “Scare the Old Lady.”

Inside the Catacombs it was so bad that I needed to throw my son again – since he obviously wasn’t going to save me. It didn’t help that  his sister sold me out too. I turned around at one point to comfort her only to come nose to bone with a guy in the BEST skeleton makeup I’ve ever seen. Though that didn’t register as I tried to climb UP the wall.

Apparently I’m the best attraction at the park – or at least that’s what the guy ahead of us felt compelled to share.

So traumatized was I that while heading out of the park I felt a soft brush on my arm and took off with a hop. I thought something had come out of the trees after me. Turns out it was only the water bottle clipped to my backpack. Yes, the kids will be telling that story for years to come. 

There is only ONE weekend left in this year’s Howl-o-Scream event. 

When:  October 24-26th 2014 (but is an annual attraction)

Tickets: $75 (ages 10 and up) $65 (ages 3-9)

Parking: $15

Those tickets are pricy, so I did some math for ya. Here in Maryland Bennett’s Curse (a haunted walk through attraction) will set you back $30. Howl-o-Scream features SIX of these type of attractions, PLUS the full fun of the park before the sun goes down, so you do really get your money’s worth.

Not into scaring yourself (seriously, I had nightmares) for fun? Then give it a couple of weeks. On select days November 21st  through December 31st Busch Gardens turns on the charm for Christmas Town.  Sip hot cocoa, stroll through “Europe” enjoying seasonal traditions from all over,  and take in the lovely lights. You’ll love it as much as we do… but dress warm. We learned our lesson on that one last year when we almost became part of Frosty’s family!

This post was made possible in part by my participation in the Busch Gardens® Williamsburg Ambassador program. I paid for my oldest son’s ticket, though the rest of family were provided park passes in order to experience the park and share with my readers.  All other items, including, games on the mid-way, feeding the birds, food and drink (nothing like Guinness on tap), I paid for. My opinions and those of my family are 100% our own – because YOU deserve nothing less!

2013 Lexus GS 450h: A Backseat Review

Life happens in cars, enjoy the ride. That tagline from She Buys Cars pretty much sums up my life. Between ferrying the kids to school, running errands, getting stuck in traffic here in the DC/Baltimore metro and our frequent family road trips a good portion of my time is spent in a car.

The same is true for the Little Nuggets. We are a family on wheels. My kids have become quite the car experts along the way. With each car I review, they put in there two cents all well. They like leather seats, aren’t fans of seat-belt air bags (too stiff and bulky). In their opinion every car should come with a rear seat entertainment system and wireless headphones. Shocking, I know. Their favorite color, oddly enough isn’t red or black, but silver.

We recently spent a week with the 2013 Lexus GS 450h. While shooting video for my review, Little Nugget #4 interjected that she thought she should be the one talking about the backseat, after all when was I ever back there anyway? I suspect that part of this was a desire to be on camera, the kid is a total ham!

The biggest “wow” feature for me was the Lexus Enform App Suite. I make no bones about it, I am a wired mom. I have been known to go through mild withdrawal issues when finding myself in a WiFi dead spot. This car was designed for drivers like me! With the App Suite I was able to make dinner reservations, find the cheapest gas and even check the weather. You can also order movie tickets on the fly, connect to Facebook and more, all using the industry’s first available 12.3-inch high-resolution split-screen multimedia display. Cool huh? It gets even more cool. The GS 450h has it’s own mouse. Yep, you can navigate your way through the plethora of features in this car using a mouse, much like the one on your desk.

Lexus_mouse

While the mouse and all the tech features are very intuitive, I did also find them a bit distracting. This could be because my car is virtually a covered wagon in comparison. Whatever the cause though, I did feel that I spent an excessive amount of my time with the car trying to figure out all the features. There is a tutorial feature, but I didn’t find it very helpful. That said, I’m sure that, were I to purchase this car, taking advantage of the one-time free setup at the dealer would make a world of difference.

A Few of My Favorite Things

  • Combo moon/sun roof.
  • For a sedan, the cargo space is great.
  • Lexus Enform with App Suite.
  • 12.3-inch high-resolution split-screen multimedia display.
  • Mark Levinson® Premium Surround Sound Audio System. (Rocked the tunes in the pick-up line at school, adding to the features by making the kids cringe.
  • Heads Up display. (This displays your speed and the direction you’ll need to turn when using the navigation system right on your driver’s side windshield.)
  • Rear-seat climate and audio controls. (available with the Luxury Package, which the car I drove had.)
  • Rain-sensing intermittent windshield wipers with mist cycle. (This was a great feature during the soggy trips we took.)
  • Drive Mode Select with Normal, EV, ECO, Sport S and Sport S+ modes.
  • Power rear sunshade. (this was such a thoughtful touch. I can see it being perfect for long sunny, summer road-trips. It also automatically goes down when you put the car in reverse.)
  • Cousins to the power sunshade, the rear windows have two-part manual sunshades as well.
  • Lane Departure Warning.
  • Intuitive Park Assist. (Which admittedly, I need.)

Things You Need to Know

  • You are buying a luxury motor vehicle. The total “sticker price” of the model we tested: $71,407.00
  • The EPA estimate for MPG on this model is 29 city/34 highway. I drove a combo of both and average around 33 MPG.
  • All the tech features are going to take a nice chunk of time to get used to.
  • The “mouse” can be distracting.
  • The manual rear sunshades tend to be hard for little hands. They also “snap” back into place with a force that might not stand up to repeated use by little folks.
  • The front spoiler is very low. Several times I had to park well behind parking bollards to avoid bumping them or having them scrape the undercarriage.
  • The front cup holders have a tension bar in them that can (and did) puncture some take-out cups.
  • While the rear passenger features, like climate and volume control are nice, they may not be good for families with younger children.
  • The rear leg room could be bigger.

The kids’ favorite thing? I think we covered that. Though they would like me to ask Lexus to consider that whole entertainment system with wireless headphones thing.

(Want to read more of a “Grownup” review of this car? Visit Traveling Mom)

Lexus provided the vehicle featured in the review, with a full tank of gas. No form of compensation was provided. As always, all opinions in this review are my own -in this case Little Nugget #3’s as well.  

Family Travel: Savannah, Shrimp & Residence Inn… Oh My!

Being a big family has never kept us rooted at home. Given the opportunity, we pick up and go! Planes, trains and automobiles? We’ve done that. This summer we set out to explore the Gulf Coast. The adventure began with taking the kids, and even our car, along on the Amtrak Auto Train to Florida’s glimmering shores. Waving a fond farewell to Florida, we hit the road, landing in Savannah, Georgia.

If I had to use one word to sum up our stay in Savannah it would have to be, Magical.

To be honest, choosing to stay in Savannah was more a strategy than a burning desire to see the place before I die. The logic? The kids could only last a maximum of eight hours in the car before a hierarchy emerged and people started to be marked for elimination. Not good. So Savannah it was. Lucky for me -card carrying member of the Residence Moms Club- there were a few Residence Inns (RI) to choose from. Little did I know what amazing stay we’d have at the the RI Historic District.

From the moment we pulled up in front of the charming brick building -nestled amongst art museums, city trolley tour stops and historic landmarks- we were made to feel like family. A friendly valet welcomed us, helped with bags and made the kids giggle (a very “luxury property” touch). The desk staff got us checked in, in a jiffy, then gave us a mini tour of the property, from the fire pit crowning the sparking pool and courtyard, to the full dining area and bar, the place as an “Old South” feel and true Southern Hospitality.Obviously the kids loved the pool most of all. That and they Eggs Florentine, grits and fresh waffles at the free breakfast bar. My kids love to eat. I enjoyed having a full kitchen (hello, eating out with a family of 6 can break the bank) stocked with groceries that the RI staff picked up for me and had delivered to our room, swoon.

The staff were so much more than hospitality workers, they became our personal tour guides, recommending places the locals go to eat, indulging my obsession with Johnny Mercer and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” and pointing us to an awesome dolphin tour. We got to see WILD baby dolphins!

My absolute favorite part of our visit to Savannah (other than the Shrimp and Grits at The Boar’s Head Grill and Tavern on the Riverwalk) was the afternoon we spent at Bonaventure Cemetery. Yes, I drug my kids into a cemetery as a family activity, don’t judge. In the visitor’s center, most people grab a map and go, in a rush to go find the Bird Girl. We lingered, and boy was it worth it. We met a lovely Southern Gentleman, a  member of the historical society and a treasure. He entertained us with an oral history of Savannah in a way no book or website could. We learned about the founding of the city, why the cemetery is laid out the way it is, how it was inclusive of several religions at a time when this was a rarity in the south. Some of the stories he told us were simply jaw-dropping. Like the one about his 200 year old obelisk that made it’s way into the Georgia soil all the way from France.

How did it end up in Bonaventure, and why? Well it was purchased by a local businessman who wanted to save the particular plot it resides on, for the day he meets his eternal rest. Where does one go to purchase a several ton marble obelisk from France? Why, eBay of course! True story.

Bonaventure was also the perfect place for me to hone my very-amateur photography skills.

From encounters with wild dolphins to a not-so-spooky walking ghost tour, amazing eats to quaint cobblestone streets, Savannah is a magical place imbued with true Southern hospitality, steeped in history and the perfect place for a family adventure!

 

Disclosure: Our stay at the Residence Inn in Savannah was compensated as part of my participation in the Residence Inn Moms Club. I was under no obligation to give this property a favorable review. As ALWAYS my opinions are my own. That said, you should stay at this property, words really can not describe how wonderful our stay was. 

Horse POWER!

So by now you know I’m a full-fledged Baltimore Chevy Girl. It’s been a blast so far. I can now give you more that 10 reasons why it’s good to be a Chevy Girl. Among them is a love story and a “space” odyssey. The epic tale of my Traverse tryst to a turn in the backfield two weeks ago when my love of horsepower crossed paths with my love of horses.

Did you know that I used to ride rodeo? Yup I actually own belt buckles upon which one could serve a four course meal. My first horse, Pepsi (don’t judge I was 9), was my first love. I’d go on to barrel race, team pen and eventually find my way to the paddock. I never raced thoroughbreds but I thoroughly loved them. In fact my study is decorated with photos I’ve taken at various race tracks.

My local Baltimore Area Chevy Dealers made a dream come true for me when they sent yours truly and fellow Chevy girl, the LOVELY Miss. Madeline Homes of Peace, Love, Lipgloss, to the 2011 running of the Preakness Stakes!

Of course there was room enough in the Traverse for THE Hat

Speaking of the hat, it was a beautiful -if as big as a boat- commissioned design handmade by Maven of Millinery Sallye May of Sallye May Creates. Sallye took my inspiration, the Maryland State flag, and whipped it into a work of art! It was the hit of the Corporate Village where it was featured on WBAL TV.

The WBAL TV Team, Madeline, Me and THE Hat

And found itself among flowers…

and EVEN IN THE WINNER’S CIRCLE!

Why is that the oldest trophy in racing just feet behind me… yes, yes it is!

So the photo might not be that great but the time I had was (The DH even won!). I can’t thank my Baltimore Area Chevy Dealers enough for a day that was a dream come true! 

Splish Splash

Okay, okay I’ve been away for FAR too long. Seriously though it’s been worth it! Soon we’ll have a whole new nuggety home to hang out at, with fun stuff galore to help kick the new site off Nuggets style. I’ve got to be honest here though, I haven’t been slaving away on the new blog the whole time I’ve been absent. Nope I’ve been slacking off too. In fact I’ve even been partying a bit.. gasp!

Yes my Nuggetiers I’m an Aquafina FlavorSplash MOM! What does that mean? Well first off it meant a great kick off party in Baltimore at the super chic Red Maple Lounge.
The lovely folks at Aquafina and Mom Central hosted a soiree for a gaggle of girls who blog and wanted to learn more about the new products. What I learned is that if you put fresh fruit in Aquafina Splash it’s like a party for your mouth. (notice I refrained from giving into the urge to sing.. it’s a party in my tummy, so yummy , so yummy…crud I did it anyway.. evil Yo Gabba Gabba! BTW I think Joey Ramone rolls over in the grave every time that show comes on.)

All the COOL kids do the Flavorsplash thing! (left to right) Vanessa of The Too Fatties, Amanda of Parenting by Dummies, Melinda of Look What Mom Found, Marymac of Pajamas and Coffee and yours truly. It really was a great event, the best part (after chick time) was coming home with a bag o’ loot that included coupons for a free six pack of Aquafina Flavorsplash. And guess what.. .I’m gonna give some to YOU! Simply leave a comment telling me which Aquafina Flavorsplash product you’d choose to flavor your day. I’ll pick a random winner or two.. maybe three and send you off a coupon and if you’re really good maybe a few other goodies too (nothing like abating my guilt for not blogging by tossing random swag at ya).

Aqufina Flavorsplash comes in the following flavors:
Grape, Wild Berry, Strawberry Kiwi, Lemon, Peach Mango (my personal fav) and Raspberry

Stay tuned for more news on the new nuggets and the official launch party! Do you think I could get Jamie Oliver to cater for us? ha ha

Disclosure 411:I wrote this post after attending an event sponsored by Aquafina FlavorSplash and Mom Central. I received FlavorSplash goodies and a gift card as a thank you for posting.