Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Congratulations to "Cinderella10383," who was selected at random (via Random.org) as the winner of the Mariah Carey Mother's Day giveaway!
Thanks to all who entered and thanks to Sony Music for sponsoring this fabulous contest! Stay tuned for another fun giveaway coming very soon!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Busch Gardens VIP Verbolten Launch Party

Last Thursday, my husband and I attended a VIP party hosted by Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA, to celebrate their brand new roller coaster Verbolten, which officially opened on Friday, May 18.

Having been long-time fans of Busch Gardens and avid roller coaster enthusiasts, we were so excited to be invited! Not only does Busch Gardens know how to throw a party, but they know how to do roller coasters right! (Two of their coasters have been nominated in the Travel Channel's Insane Coaster Wars: Apollo's Chariot in the "G-Force Giants" category and Alpengeist in "Hang 'Em High.")

The park was closed to the public, but Busch Gardens opened Germany, home of Verbolten, to guests of the party. There was amazing food, drinks, costumed entertainers, games, a fabulous live band (Slapwater), and of course, the star of the party, VERBOLTEN!

The very first thing we did before anything else was ride Verbolten, which I'll describe below. But first, I'll talk about the rest of the party so as not to give any spoilers away to those who want to be surprised when they ride the coaster.

There were so many great people at the party, including state dignitaries and officials of Busch Gardens. Here, Matt and I pose in front of one of the best Verbolten props (a wrecked old Porsche) with Busch Gardens president Carl Lum, who is such a nice, down-to-earth guy:

We listened to Carl give a speech about what went into planning Verbolten and then we got to hear from State Senator Tommy Norment:

We dined on bacon-wrapped scallops, Budweiser grilled shrimp, homemade potato chips, and pretzels with beer mustard that were to die for! (You must try those when you're in the Germany section of Busch Gardens, or try the 2,000 calorie pretzel sandwich they're famous for!)

We loved the delicious drink of the night, The Verboltini:

And we made a few stops at the dessert table:

We had game passes which allowed Matt to try a few times to win a ladybug stuffed animal I really wanted. He not only won that one, he also won a puppy for me!

We had fun interacting with the characters, with Matt pulling me onto the "dance floor" at one point, and we do-si-doed arm in arm with them. Thankfully I do NOT have a picture of that, lol! But here we are with the main characters behind Verbolten, Gerta and Gunter Schwartzwald, who are brother and sister and owners of Verbolten Black Forest Tours:

Click here to read Gerta and Gunter's full story, which is really imaginative and whimsical and gives you the background of Verbolten.

Here's a quick video I shot of the party in full-swing:

And here's video of the live band Slapwater. Watch how that cute little girl gets down with one of the characters and you can also see Verbolten taking off towards the end:

Now on to the ride! Oh! My! Gosh! It was AMAZING!! The ride itself is like no other ride you've ever ridden before and the attention to detail and the storyline behind Verbolten are simply astounding.

From what we heard, the lines were super long on opening day as everyone clamored to ride Verbolten for the first time, but Busch Gardens has put so much thought into the decorations and features inside of the queue line that you'll be quite entertained if you have to wait.

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read any further if you want to be surprised by the queue line and ride!

Still here? Good! Because I'm so excited to share what we experienced with you!

The first thing you'll see, after winding around a cobblestone path, is a "ticket booth" where a television plays a recording from Verbolten Black Forest Tours owner Gerta. Apparently, cars they have rented out have been disappearing in the Black Forest and you're about to be on one of those cars!

There's so much attention to details with old German cupboards, coo-coo clocks, gnomes, maps, etc. Some riders have stated that they actually wish they'd had more time in the queue line to soak everything in.

As you enter the second section of the tourist agency, you find an old desk and televisions with "kameras" showing people getting in their cars:

I just love the old suitcases and antique feel...it's like you're transported into another place and time! Finally, you arrive at your final destination before take-off:

Now, here's a little tip/trick you'll want to know to get the most out of Verbolten...There are actually three different experiences depending on which line you get in: Spirit of the Woods, Wolves, and Storm.

My memory is horrible so I don't remember which line is which, but you'll definitely want to ride three times and wait in the first, middle and back aisles to make sure you get to experience all three stories.

Where you sit makes a difference as well. The front seat seemed to be the most popular and if you're prone to dizziness, you'll definitely want to sit there as the G-forces are strongest in the back. And man are there G-forces on this ride!!

What sets Verbolten apart is that it is the only coaster in this country to feature a vertical free-fall, Tower of Terror style, at one point during the ride. The entire track and car drop. I know, right?

I don't do droppy rides, so I was a little afraid of this part. I don't mind hill drops, of course, otherwise I wouldn't be a roller coaster enthusiast. But free falls are definitely not my thing. I actually enjoyed Verbolten's drop though, so if you don't do droppy rides either, you should still give Verbolten a chance.

This is also a multi-launch ride, and Busch Gardens uses the same technology that is used on Navy carriers to launch jets. As you wind down the beginning part of the track, you come to a stop just before hitting the Black Forest, which is something else I love about this ride...it's an indoor and outdoor coaster with the Black Forest being the indoor part.

You are launched into complete darkness and depending on which experience you get, you'll see either wolves eyes and hear them howling, be treated to a pleasant woman's voice (the spirit) which then turns sinister, or be thrown into the midst of a violent thunderstorm with falling rocks all around you. Pretty cool, huh?

The scariest part for me was the "spaghetti bowl" twist. You can't even see where you're going because it's so dark...you just feel those G-forces taking over. Then, you suddenly stop.

Busch Gardens worked hard to ensure that every last detail on the Verbolten cars were realistic. Amazing!

You know that game you played as a kid, where someone held onto your hands and spun you in circles around the room and then came to a sudden stop? Yeah...it's kind of like that! The ride suddenly comes to a halt after going down the spaghetti bowl, but my head was still spinning!

I was actually grateful for the pause so I could get my orientation back. Just as the spinning in my head finally stopped, we were heading forward again to a "bridge" that was about to break. You hear creaking and come to yet another stop, waiting on the edge of your seat for the free-fall drop.

I knew it was coming but it still freaked me out in a totally good way! As soon as you drop, you're launched full-force for a second-time out of the Black Forest and up a giant hill.

Photo courtesy of Busch Gardens
You then careen down toward the river, which is a tribute to the Big Bad Wolf coaster that used to be there (and was my oldest's very first roller coaster ride).

Here's a POV video shot by wavy.com, but be warned that no video can truly do this ride justice! You really have to ride it to fully experience it!

Again, it's even better in person, so I strongly urge you to head to Busch Gardens and give the ride a try for yourself! It's a perfect family coaster and the height requirements are lower than they are for some of the other coasters in the park so your younger kids might be able to ride with you.

As we left the party, we were handed t-shirts and goodie bags filled with awesome Verbolten swag:

There's a gorgeous silver Verbolten key chain, a really cute car-shaped pen, note pad, window cling, and a collector's pin with the license plate for one of the cars (WOLF XING). How awesome is that?

Thank you, Busch Gardens, for the gifts, food, fun and most of all, for such an amazing new roller coaster that we can't wait to come back and ride again!

For more information on Verbolten, click here. There's a live web cam coming soon so you can watch people experience the thrills in real time! 

You can also follow Busch Gardens on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Finally, visit Busch Gardens' official website for information on hours, vacation packages, tickets, special offers and more.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Special Mother's Day Giveaway From Mariah Carey

Honey. Fantasy. Heartbreaker. Vision of Love. Dreamlover. I could sit here all day and list all of the Mariah Carey songs that I love. And now, I can listen to all of them on her brand new 2-CD greatest hits release, The Essential Mariah Carey released May 8 through Columbia Records, a division of SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT.
The 28-track, 2 CD collection contains 14 Hot 100 #1 hits, including rare remixes and fan favorite album tracks from Mariah's first decade of recording! Perfect for Mariah fans like me who just can't get enough! (In fact, I am listening to "Dreamlover" right now!)

The 28 tracks on this double CD laid the foundation for five-time, Grammy award winner Mariah's reign as the top-selling female recording artist in history with over 200 million albums, singles and videos sold worldwide.

"I wanted to create a collection of some of my favorite songs," Mariah said. "Several of them are very big hits and some are more obscure favorites of mine as well as fan faves."

At the heart of the set are 14 chart-topping hits from her run of RIAA gold, platinum and multi-platinum Billboard Hot 100 #1 hits, including:
  • 1990: "Vision of Love," "Love Takes Time"
  • 1991: "I Don't Wanna Cry," "Emotions" (included in its 12-inch Club Mix)
  • 1992: "I'll Be There" (featuring Trey Lorenz)
  • 1993: "Dreamlover," "Hero"
  • 1995: "Fantasy," "One Sweet Day" (Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men)
  • 1996: "Always Be My Baby"
  • 1997: "Honey"
  • 1998: "My All"
  • 1999: "Heartbreaker" (featuring Jay-Z), "Thank God I Found You" (featuring Joe and 98°)
Fans and collectors of Mariah's albums will love that Essential contains four tracks newly chosen by Mariah herself:

  • "Vanishing," Mariah's debut as a producer, from her self-titled debut album of 1990.
  • "Close My Eyes," a confessional track from the Butterfly album, evoking her new freedom as a single woman in 1997.
  • "The Roof (Mobb Deep Extended Version)," also from Butterfly, Mariah's first track with the songwriting-production duo Poke & Tone, aka The Trackmasters (Jean Claude Oliver and Samuel Barnes).
  • "Bliss," from her 1998 album Rainbow, one of six tracks on that album that were co-written and co-produced by Mariah with the Flyte Tyme Productions team of Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, and Big Jim Wright.

Full list from The Essential Mariah Carey:

Disc: 1
1. Vision Of Love
2. Love Takes Time
3. Vanishing
4. I Don't Wanna Cry
5. EMOTIONS (12" Club Mix)
6. Can't Let Go
7. Make It Happen
8. I'll Be There
9. Dreamlover
10. Hero
11. Without You
12. Anytime You Need A Friend (C&C Club Version)
13. Endless Love
14. Fantasy
Disc: 2
1. One Sweet Day
2. Always Be My Baby
3. Underneath The Stars
4. Honey
5. Butterfly
6. My All
7. Close My Eyes
8. The Roof (Mobb Deep Extended Version)
9. When You Believe (from The Prince Of Egypt)
10. I Still Believe
11. Heartbreaker
12. Bliss
13. Thank God I Found You
14. Can't Take That Away (Mariah's Theme)

In celebration of the release of The Essential Mariah Carey, Sony Music is offering one lucky reader of So a Blonde Walks Into a Review a copy of the CD set, an AUTOGRAPHED booklet, and Mariah's fragrance "Forever."

I am not only in love with this CD set, I have fallen head-over-heels for Mariah's "Forever" perfume! I think it just may be my new favorite scent! It has a light fragrance that reminds me of dancing playfully in fields of honeysuckles, kind of like Mariah in her Dreamlover video:

Perfect for spring/summer and perfect for a Mother's Day treat! So I am thrilled to be able to give away a full-size bottle for one lucky winner to try, along with the CD set and signed booklet!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post letting me know what your favorite Mariah Carey song is. Be sure that there is an email address that can be found with your entry or your entry will have to be disqualified.

By entering, you automatically agree to all the rules and disclaimers listed here. Please also see my disclosure policy here.

You can receive additional entries by doing one or all of the following (one entry, one time, for each step):

~Tweet with a link to this post. Then leave a separate comment here with your Twitter link. Feel free to use the Twitter share button at the bottom of this site.

~Follow BlondeBlogger on Twitter. Then leave a separate comment on this post with your Twitter name.

~Follow Mariah Carey on Twitter. Then leave a separate comment on this post with your Twitter name.

~Follow Sony Legacy Recordings on Twitter. Then leave a separate comment on this post with your Twitter name.

~Become a Facebook fan of So a Blonde Walks Into a Review. Simply click here and like the page, then leave a separate comment on this post letting me know your Facebook name.

~Become a Facebook fan of Mariah Carey. Simply click here and like the page, then leave a separate comment on this post letting me know your Facebook name.

~Become a Facebook fan of Sony Legacy Recordings. Simply click here and like the page, then leave a separate comment on this post letting me know your Facebook name.

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~Join this site with Google Friend Connect (located in the right sidebar). Then, leave a separate comment letting me know you are following.

 Deadline to enter is 11:59 EST, Sunday, May 27, 2012. Winner will be selected at random using Random.org. Good luck!

Disclosure: I received a copy of The Essential Mariah Carey as well as Mariah's "Forever" fragrance to facilitate this review/giveaway.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Interview with Actress Kristy Swanson from AOL's "Little Women, Big Cars"

Just in time for Mother's Day, AOL On Parenting has released a fun, new series about motherhood titled, Little Women, Big Cars.  Produced by independent studio Vuguru, the 15-episode comedy revolves around the lives of four devoted moms who struggle to balance their busy schedules, family lives and sanity.

The series stars Amy Yasbeck (Wings, Hot in Cleveland), Kristy Swanson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Psych), Romy Rosemont (Glee), Julie Warner (Crash, Nip/Tuck), Ed Begley Jr. (Portlandia, The New Adventures of Old Christine) and Antonio Sabato Jr. (Melrose Place, The Bold and the Beautiful).

Here's a description of Little Women, Big Cars from AOL:

When the women set Barbara (Warner) up on a date with their kids’ handsome, and recently divorced soccer coach (Sabato Jr.), that blossoming relationship forces the other women to re-examine their own marriages. Their friendship is further tested when it comes time to compete for spots in the school’s gifted program. Will the women realize their bond is truly stronger than they ever imagined? From bake sales and soccer games, to gossip and divorce, these four moms will navigate the comedy and drama of suburban life.

The ensemble includes:

MEG (Amy Yasbeck), an over achieving people pleaser who, as a stay at home mom, takes on every school project
BARBARA (Julie Warner), a recent divorcee, lawyer and reluctant new soccer mom
ROCKY (Kristy Swanson) a high-maintenance, materialistic diva and kept wife
CONNIE (Romy Rosemont), a curvaceous and big-hearted mother and Rocky’s side-kick
Mr. Hughes (Ed Begley Jr.), school Principal with whom Meg is constantly trying to be in good graces
A.J. (Antonio Sabato, Jr.), the handsome, recently divorced soccer coach
Woody (Alexis Denisof, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel ) – Meg’s husband

Little Women Big Cars is directed by Melanie Mayron and is created by Sherry Coben. Coben is best known for creating the hit 80’s sitcom “Kate & Allie”.

Here's a trailer for the series from YouTube:

My husband and I were able to screen the series before the May 7 release and we truly enjoyed it, literally laughing out loud at several scenes. I could especially relate to the moms as I know what it's like to take on too much work and get overwhelmed with the day-to-day burdens of being a mom. But, in the end, the joys outweigh the burdens and this series gets that message across in a fun, comical way.

My favorite character in the series is Kristy Swanson's "Rocky." She is hilarious! There were several times I was like, "Oh my gosh, that's me!" but I'd like to think I only have her good traits and not her bad ones! (When I saw her glittery iPhone case, I yelled to my husband, "That looks just like mine!")

So I was thrilled to be able to interview Kristy about the series and her part in it. Here, Kristy explains Rocky's personality and shares a funny behind-the-scenes moment between her and actress Romy Rosemont:

Blonde Blogger: What is the best take-away message in this series for moms?

Kristy: The message I get from watching the show is.....we all come from different walks of life, we all struggle here and there, raising children and keeping your marriage intact is challenging but the best way to get through it all is to laugh at it all, just have fun, don't take life SO seriously all the time. I LOVE laughing and the quick whit of this show made me laugh. : )

Blonde Blogger: Describe your character and how she fits in with this group of mothers.

Kristy: I play Rocky....she is a straight shooter, she really has NO filter, she likes money a lot and is pretty disconnected emotionally so she hides herself in shopping, clothing, make up, gossip etc etc etc. She is best friends with Connie and they make for a fun duo. We all have our kids in common, they are all the same age.

Blonde Blogger: What real-life experiences did you draw on, if any, for your character?

Kristy: I really am nothing like Rocky, which makes her a ton of fun to play. I absolutely LOVE her! She is a blast : )

Blonde Blogger: Any behind-the-scenes moments or secrets you'd like to share? (embarrassing moments, bloopers, things to watch for, etc.)

Kristy: Ha ha...Well, one day when we were filming, Romy Rosemont (she plays Connie my BFF) and I called in a take out order to California Pizza Kitchen for the 4 of us for lunch. So Romy and I go to CPK to pick up the food, we are standing at the counter and the guy there gives me the total $ for the order and I said......"Oh yeah, um actually my Mom here is payin for it." and OMG you should have seen the look on Romy's face!

Bahahahaha it was priceless because the guy at the counter said to Romy...."Oh okay then that will be $54.75 Ma'am." Her eyes got SO big at me in disbelief.  Bahahahaha omg she and I still to this day laugh about that one, simply because this not so bright guy behind the counter actually believed me. What a numb nut, haha. God I love a good practical joke....I really do : ) thank GOD Romy still loves me. lol.

Xoxo Kristy A.K.A. Rocky : )


Too funny! That actually sounds like something Rocky would do!

You can watch Kristy in all of her hilarity as Rocky, as well as the rest of the talented cast in Little Women, Big Cars, right here on AOL On Parenting!
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