What a Fun Day with the Family

When we all go out as a family and everyone has a good time, I feel like I have pulled off the ultimate feat of magic. Done the impossible. Everything goes, perhaps not right, but at least well enough that nobody seems to notice the stuff that doesn’t go well, and the day ends with smiles. That’s probably pretty rare around here, but it certainly isn’t for lack of trying.

I think the best time we all ever had together was the day we went to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. The kids thought we were going there for the rides, but Husband and I had an ulterior motive: the Food and Wine Festival. One day I’d like to do the one at Disney World, but this one is only about an hour and a half away!

The cool thing about this festival is that there are chef demonstrations, which I enjoy. You get samples of the things they make, and it is incredible to see a real professional at work. There are also opportunities to meet the chefs working the festival – an opportunity you don’t often get to experience.

Now, normally at a festival like this, you get food and drink pairings. But at the Busch Gardens festival, you get food and RIDE pairings. Only those with iron stomachs should go for the Jamaican Jerk Chicken and then go on the Alpengeist as they suggested, but there are other options. We did the beignets and the Skyride as well as the mini cannoli trio and the Italy Gardens, both of which we all enjoyed.

Then, because it’s a Food and Wine festival, there’s wine tastings in the different “country” areas of the park. There’s French, Niagara Region, German, Argentinian, and Italian wines available for you to try. And if wine’s not your thing, there’s a Scotch tasting over in the Scotland area. Of course, the Oktoberfest neighborhood behind Germany is there all the time, so you have that as an option as well. Alcohol and heat and an amusement park might not be for everyone, though, just an FYI.

So the kids thought we were superheroes because we took them to an amusement park. I couldn’t believe these were the same kids that complain about waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store with me or the ones who complain about how far they have to walk from the store to the car. They ran around and got on rides. They never once complained if there was a line. It made being at a crowded park in the hot weather more than bearable—it was downright pleasant. I even found myself wondering why we don’t take them here more often and considered buying a season pass. I was smart enough not to open my mouth, because once we got home, some sanity returned and I was glad I didn’t make any actual promises.

This Food and Wine festival has something for everyone, even those who aren’t old enough to drink and who aren’t adventurous eaters. Plus, the kids were so worn out by the time we got home, they went to bed without complaining. All three of my kids! I think this is going to be a yearly thing.

Cooking for Five

There is so much that I wanted to write about today but when I sat down at the computer, my mind went blank and now I don’t remember any of it. If you knew me IRL you’d be hard pressed to believe that I had nothing to say but I guess typing is different.

I think I wanted to talk about how hard it is to find things for the whole family to eat. I know at my house, we go out to eat probably more than we should. Not because we don’t like to cook or anything like that. I do enjoy cooking. It’s because there are five people with such strong opinions about food in this house. Everybody has to say something about dinner. I often feel like a short-order cook.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean. One kid likes his hamburgers burnt to a crisp, Husband would rather his basically moo at him, one kid just wants to eat the fixin’s and not the actual burger, and the other one won’t eat hamburgers at all and insists I make a hot dog instead. Then there’s me, who will eat a burger any which way if it means I don’t have to cook it. When I do make them myself, mine has to be medium-well, with swiss cheese, lettuce, a slice of tomato, bacon, and BBQ sauce.

Every meal is like this. I am sure this is something you can all relate to. So eating out, where somebody else is going to deal with all these weird dietary requests, often seems like a good idea. It is also impractical and expensive, so I am trying to come up with alternatives (as every eatery in a 25-mile radius either groans with sadness at the loss of a cash cow or squeals with glee that we might not darken their doors as often) for real mealtimes at home.

One thing I am doing, which the kids can’t stand, is making everyone meal plan and go shopping with me. The kids each get to pick one dinner menu item per week, and they help make choices about sides and snacks when we’re at the store. They hate that it is extra work for them (before a magical fairy named Mom did all the meal planning and food just mysteriously transported from the store into our fridge and pantry) but I’ve noticed that they actually eat more of what’s on their plate.

The other thing I’m doing is making more items that require assembly. For example: tacos. I make the meat and put out different things everyone can use to top theirs off. While there’s a lot of chopping and dicing and what have you, the actual meal building is up to each individual. That means less complaining and more eating!

What about you? How do you handle meal time with a bunch of people who like food but not the same food? I would love to add more tricks to my arsenal!

Starting my Victory Lap Now

Feeding a family of five can be challenging. No two people like the same meal. I often feel like I am constantly making the same few things over and over. The kids don’t seem especially bothered by this, but I sure am!

Now, the kids like to eat at The Virginian Restaurant, a diner here in Vienna. The kids like it because they can eat breakfast at any time of day and the Husband and I don’t usually mind eating there, either.

However, today I had been in yoga pants all day and have barely brushed my hair. There was no way that we were going to go out for dinner. The Virginian was out. However, after poking around in the fridge a little, I had another idea: I can certainly make breakfast-as-dinner for the family! Their favorite part of eating at The Virginian without actually having to put on real pants and go for dinner.

I broke out our panini maker, which as it turns out, has interchangeable plates so that I can make waffles. I made the batter, and cut up some fruit as toppings. I scrambled some eggs and made some bacon, too. The kids were spread out all over the house, doing homework and watching TV or playing with toys. The bacon cooking on the stove acted like a siren song and one by one, they came in to look over my shoulder and see what I was doing. They were absolutely delighted to find out about breakfast-as-dinner.

Now, some of you may be able to have breakfast at dinner time all the time. Maybe it isn’t a novelty to you. But I am one of those firm believers in a full dinner, consisting of a protein, a vegetable, and some kind of starch. For breakfast, on the other hand, I am a lot more lenient as long as the kids eat something and they drink some orange juice. So while this may be a normal thing at your house, at my house, the kids thought I had lost my mind.

The Husband even seemed surprised. When he walked in the house after work, he made a big show of checking his watch and asking if he had his am and pm mixed up. It’s a good thing that I think he’s adorable, because his sense of humor doesn’t win him a lot of points!

Anyway, everyone ate dinner without complaining, without 15 million distractions, and there were no leftovers. Nobody was whining and asking me, “how much do I have to eat?” and all the other things they do to let me know that they are unhappy with whatever food it has taken me forever to plan, prep, and prepare for them.

So that was my big revelation, folks. I couldn’t think of anything else to serve for dinner, so I just served them breakfast instead. I think maybe I have been trying too hard lately and this just proved that thinking outside the box works (at least some of the time).

I think I will take more inspiration from other places we eat and see how that goes. Wish me luck!