Saturday, August 31, 2013

Candy Corn M&M's

Last year, I heard all about Candy Corn M&M's.  I saw them, I picked them up, and read the bag.  It clearly said "white chocolate" M&M's.  I thought, if these are just a collection of M&M's that I can get at any time of year, seasonally colored to represent candy corn, then it's not worth buying to try and write about.

But soon after I passed up on the M&M's, I read various reviews that described the flavor and they believed they were actually candy corn flavored.  Well now we're talking.  This year, I wasn't going to let others describe and review for me, I was going to do that myself.  Luckily, I found a tiny bag at Michael's Craft Store and was able to pick it up for cheap.

One thing I never discounted last year was the bag design.  On both the large and small bags, they went all out as they usually do with their seasonal M&M's.  Of course, they went with the obvious color scheme of yellow, white, and orange.  I wouldn't expect anything different, but the fact that they dressed the red M&M in a candy corn costume is pretty cool.  We all know this guy.  He's been in 100s of commercials and he's quite the complainer.  It seems like he's never happy.  But somehow, they convinced him to put this costume on and act like he's proud to be laying in an M&M ball pit.  He's even throwing up the RVD thumb as if to say "Yeah, check me out, ladies."  They must have paid him in gum.

You'd probably notice the size of these M&M's first, but I want you to notice the fact that I flipped every M&M over to be M-Side Up.  That's dedication to The Holidaze, so lie and tell me you noticed that first, okay?

Second, you'll notice the strong scent of sugar once you rip this open.  It kinda smells like cake frosting battling with the stronger scent of vanilla extract.  It's strong, but I like it.

Lastly, before you try one, you have to respect the colors.  Comparing these M&M's to candy corn is easy, but they're perfect for fall as well.  Besides brown, I can't think of three better colors to pour in a bowl and display on your table as a decorative item.  You don't even have to be a fan of Halloween or candy corn, you just have to enjoy the season itself.  And if you don't like Fall, then I have no idea how you stumbled on this site.

Okay, now for the reason behind purchasing these suckers at all - the taste!!  I gotta be honest, all I'm tasting is white chocolate.  I've seen a dozen sites saying that they taste candy corn, but I'm really pushing it if I say I do, too.  I mean, you might get a hint of it every now and then, but I truly feel like I'm tricking myself into believing it.  A lot of people have said "Yeah, it's white chocolate and candy corn combined."  I'll take your word for it and, if that's the case, then I now know what those two flavors taste like when put together, but I can't make the same claim.  

Regardless of what I taste, you taste, I think, or you think, these M&M's are still very good and they're worth buying for the colors and design alone.  I didn't think so last year, but I've had a change of heart after writing about them.  If not for the season, I'd probably avoid them and stick with the classics, but I can't turn down Halloween candy two-years in a row.  Now, from what I'm hearing, there are new pumpkin spice M&M's out for 2013 and those I'll have to try.  I've been on the lookout, but no luck just yet.  When it comes to stocking shelves, stores have been slower than ever.  But soon, Halloween will strike and strike hard.  Until then, go ahead and pick these up.  I'm curious to see what you think.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Cadbury S'Creme Eggs

Have you seen the Cadbury "Screme" Eggs?  You probably have.  They're nothing new, but I passed up on them last year and regretted it soon after the season ended.  I remember seeing them on multiple blogs and, on every one, people wrote about how cool it was to have a chocolate candy with green slime.  Why in the world I'd ever turn that down is beyond me, but I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice.  For whatever reason, the Cadbury Screme Egg was among the first of Halloween candies found and has been sitting in my 'fridge for about 3-weeks.

I think everybody associates Cadbury with Easter which is why this variation on the traditional creme egg is so awesome.  I love it when companies think outside the box and branch out into seasons that don't belong to them.  Go on and claim your spot, Cadbury, and keep your rabbit on the box to prove you belong.  I love that!  Everything about their set-up is designed perfectly for Halloween.  From the purple and green color scheme to the haunted woods in the background, it's a great contrast that creates an eye-popping display that quickly catches the eyes of customers.  It lured me in right away and I immediately recognized their logo and brand thanks to that rabbit.  Plus, they gave her a witchy hat.

If I'm being honest, I don't think I've ever had a Cadbury Creme Egg, let alone one that added an "S" to their title.  I might have once or twice in the past, but cream-filled candy isn't usually my thing.  I'm more inclined to stick with their chocolate rabbits and, because of them, I know Cadbury isn't some knock-off company producing gross candy.  I knew this would be worth buying for various reasons, and their reputation is definitely one of them.  Besides, I am crazy over the packaging.  The green, purple, and silver wrapper makes it look like a Halloween-dyed Easter Egg.  You can't say no, especially when the "Creme's Gone Green!"

Not gonna lie - that looks pretty gross.  These tasted amazing, but refrigerating these babies doesn't make for much of a visual.  The chocolate always gets that chalky, dusty, ashy look to it.  It appears as though the candy has gone bad in a matter of weeks, and I've always hated that about cold chocolate, but the flavor is on point!  As soon as I cracked this egg in half, the green creme made my day.  After keeping this for so long, just waiting for the right time to unwrap and write, I felt like a proud farmer who had finally seen his ugly green chicken crack free.  The bright color, almost neon green, is the perfect shade for Halloween.

Despite being kept cold, the filling was still creamy enough to live up to its name.  As the box describes, it's really just fondant, but it's not the hard type you'd expect Buddy the Cake Boss to use.  It's soft.  I'm sure it would be even lighter had I opened this right away and, looking back, that's the only thing I'd have done differently with this post, but it's good enough for a Screme Egg in August.

The coolest part - much like any egg - is that a living being will eventually develop and emerge from his temporary shelter.  I didn't know what to expect, but I assumed something would show itself and appear after some time.  Naturally, that's what eggs are for, right?  So, I sat there - waiting and waiting - for a new friendship to form.  After some time, the gooey creme monster finally rose.

Now all he needs is a name.  Any suggestions?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

French Toast & Vanilla Cupcake Goldfish

Quick post today and it probably took me longer to design the banner above than it will for you to read this.  But even though I'm clearly in a Halloween mood, I can't let Summer go completely.  With a few "official" weeks left, we're still going to see and do a few things that are clearly related to the Summer 'Daze.  I'd hate to overlook anything in an attempt to speed the spooky months up, so you're going to see a random assortment of posts until I can fully commit to the horrific daze of September and October.

Because I have my eyes set on orange and black, I probably would have missed this new Goldfish variety from Pepperidge Farm.  It was Eileen who spotted these "Grahams French Toast" Goldfish and, at first, I thought she was kidding.  My favorite breakfast in the world is French Toast.  That's all I need.  Smother it in butter and syrup and I'm all set.  I've been like that since I was a kid.  My used to make it for me so often that I would wind up asking to have it for dinner.  In the morning, It's still the only thing I ever order at a New Jersey Diner, Ihop or Perkins.  So, when she told me there was a bag of French Toast flavored Goldfish?  I was pumped!

These are sooo good! Granted, I'm biased, but these are incredible.  They remind me of a few different things but, most notably, I'd compare them to French Toast Crunch.  Discontinued here in the United States, French Toast Crunch was a cereal shaped to look like tiny slices of bread and tasted just like French Toast.  I used to love it!  For a while, it was the only cereal I ate.  There have been similar flavors, like Waffle Crisp and Eggo Maple Syrup, but nothing came close to French Toast Crunch.  That's until these Goldfish came along.  It may not be cereal, but it's close enough to satisfy me at the end of Summer.  For a more precise description, it's like French Toast Crunch meets a Cinnamon Teddy Graham and covers him in all that maple flavored sugar to create the only type of fish this picky eater will ever enjoy.

Once I saw the French Toast variety, I had to take a close look at the shelves to see if there was anything else I may have missed.  Now, this one doesn't say "New" in the upper left corner, but it's new to me and that'll work.  I told Eileen to get this one because, when I think of cupcakes, I think of her.  Not only does she like them, but she bakes the best I've ever had.  They taste delicious and she decorates them perfectly so, of course, it only made sense that we bought these too.  One for her, one for me.  But really, both for me.

I really like the way these Goldfish look.  I love the sprinkles added to make more of a "cupcake" impression.  I took these photos outside yesterday to really make those tiny sprinkles pop.  If you look closely, you'll see the rain drops on my classy paper plate.  But the money is in the flavor and that's where it kinda falls flat.  It's a cross between cake batter and animal crackers, but doesn't hit the landing quite right.  They're good, don't get me wrong, but I don't think the flavor is right.  I'll have to leave that up to my girlfriend.

Now, here's a word of advice from Pepperidge Farm:

Haha, that's so Finny! ;)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

League of Extraordinary Bloggers

"Hello, My Name Is.."

Throughout my time writing on The Holidaze, I've searched via Facebook and Twitter for other blogs that are similar to my own or those that I may have a personal interest in.  While doing so, I stumbled across and the "League of Extraordinary Bloggers."  Now what is that?  Well, once a week, they post a topic and invite any and every blog to write or post about that said topic.  It seems like a great idea and, from what I've seen, builds up a great camaraderie between those who participate and provides cool stories.  I figured, let's give this a try and see how it goes.  Especially when this week's topic is so fitting for a first-time post.

Hello, my name is Cliff!

Those who read The Holidaze know a little bit about me and it's hard to sum it all up in one post, but that's me next to WWE Superstar Randy Orton.  I'm a huge wrestling fan and have been since a child.  If you're interested in reading more about my passion for the WWE and how it inspired me to be creative in my personal and professional life, then feel free to check out my recent post about it all.  In a nutshell, I've always had great respect and admiration for putting on a show within the entertainment business.  In my opinion, nobody does that better than the WWE and, since a young age, I've always looked to find my own niche and way of entertaining.  I guess that's what The Holidaze is, even if it's just me in my tiny corner of the Internet world.

For 9 years, I've been in an amazing relationship with my girlfriend, Eileen.  There is no bigger part of my life than what I have with her.  I went to an all-boy high school, she went to an all-girl school, and we met by chance in my Junior year.  She was a Freshman.  I never would have expected that, 9-years-later, we'd still be together with such an incredible bond, but I couldn't ask for anything better.  To connect on such a level, where I can read what she's thinking just by looking at her, is something I never thought I'd find at 16-years-old and I try not to take that for granted.

I'm 26-years-old, but inside, I'm still pretty much the same kid from 1990 you see above.  I was the biggest Ninja Turtles fan and that was the Christmas I finally received my "Turtle Van" and Sewer from good ol' Santa.  From there, I transitioned with the times and grew a love for Disney, Power Rangers, Batman, etc..  As I grew older, I became nostalgic and looked to resurrect all the things I loved and, thanks to so many like me, it wasn't all that hard.  Companies have been pushing all that I used to love for the past few years and that's made it easier to re-collect and enjoy what I grew up on.  But don't let the "geek" fool you.  I'm not somebody who got picked on in school or doesn't know who Derek Jeter is.  Sports are a huge part of my life.

For the last 5 years, I've worked for the Brooklyn (formerly New Jersey) Nets.  Above is one of my favorite photos taken from television.  It was when we announced Deron Williams and Joe Johnson as our new back court in Brooklyn.  I happened to be pictured in the background so I like to call us the "Big 3."  As a long-time, die-hard Nets fan, I had an amazing time with the team and met more athletes and celebrities than I can remember.  Most of them were class acts, especially Jimmy Fallon who I grew a new respect for.  But, as it normally goes, all good things come to an end and I've moved on to other things.  Thanks to new opportunities, the future is brighter than ever and for as much as I love the past, I look forward to carrying that nostalgia with me as I progress into the distance.

Of course, I'd be nowhere without these two people - my Mother and Father.  The Holidaze focuses a lot on nostalgia and, believe me, I'd have nothing to talk about if it weren't for the generosity and love from my parents.  Let me be honest, I was spoiled as a kid.  I grew up with 14 close cousins, so I never felt like an only child, but I am and I received every perk that comes with it.  However many presents you and your brothers received, I got double.  But the biggest thing they instilled in me was to never be selfish and never take things for granted.  I'm not entitled to anything.  Good things come to good people who share their kindness with others, work hard, and strive to be a positive person.  I couldn't ask for better parents and, in the photo above, on Father's Day 2013, we had one of the best days when I got our picture up on the big screen.

If you've ever read The Holidaze, you've probably realized that many of the designs are original.  That's because I freelance as a graphic designer and have loved creating something from nothing since I was 13-years-old.  It's a very cool feeling to see something you've created out there for the world to see.  Many of you understand the feeling and, honestly, a few of you are way out of my league in terms of illustration.  I tend to focus on my Nets, promoting them through my art and attempting to build a larger fan base.  For me, it's fun, but I always take on the extra business when it comes looking for me.  It's a passion and one that I love to express as much as I do my writing on The Holidaze.

There are so many more sides to me and aspects of my life that cannot be explained here on The Holidaze, but if you've never read the site before, I welcome you to look back on previous posts to gain a better understanding of who I am.  I also invite you to stick around as we move toward the Halloween season and begin discussing some fun stuff.  At the end of the day, The Holidaze is more about what to do and what there is rather than who I am.  I just happen to be guy presenting it to you.

I'd like to thank and the "League" for coming up with such a cool idea and allowing all bloggers to get involved.  I'm already looking forward to next week and a brand new topic.

Don't forget to check out other bloggers from "The League" and get to know them, too!

Starburst Candy Corn

It's still August, so there haven't been many Halloween products released, but there have been a few here and there.  One of the downsides of starting the "Halloween Holidaze" so early is that I really don't have much to talk about just yet.  But when you find Fruity Yummy Mummy, you drop everything and change the design.  In the meantime, I'll be sure to throw in a few more Summer posts every now and then before we really hit the ground running in September.  Luckily, one of the first items revealed to us this season is brand new and comes from Starburst.

Introducing - Starburst Candy Corn!  Weeks ago, I had seen a photo of these posted on Instagram and thought, ah, that's probably not real.  But after I thought about it, this release actually makes sense for Starburst.  They're one of the few candy brands ahead of the curve.  When fans let them know that Cherry and Strawberry were the favorites, they released "Fav Reds."  For Easter, they came out with Starburst Jelly Beans.  And, for movie lovers who have never been offered anything worth taking (or sneaking) into the theater, I recently spotted these at CVS..

When it comes to candy, Starburst has always ranked high on my top-ten list.  When I was a kid, my cousin and I used to buy pack after pack during the Summer and attempt to come up with new flavors.  Because they were the only "fruit chew" around, we thought it would be cool to see a "Soda" and "Peanut Butter and Jelly" flavored Starburst.  Not sure how I'd feel about that now, but I'd give it a shot.  It's still better than "Macaroni and Cheese."  We were just hungry that day.

Starburst Candy Corn is a great idea and perfectly connects the flavor of traditional Starburst with the celebration of Halloween.  Candy Corn isn't for everybody but, personally, I enjoy it.  It reminds me of Fall and growing up in anticipation of Halloween.  The flavor is one that I'll always associate with the upcoming time of year.  I remember, one year, I was home alone on a Saturday night playing "WWE WrestleMania XIX" on Nintendo Gamecube while eating a giant bag of candy corn and baby pumpkins.  Hell of a good time.  I felt like the Halloween version of Kevin McCallister.

Now, these Starburst Candy Corn don't have the classic candy corn flavor, but they do share the same texture.  With this candy, you're getting the memorable feel of candy corn with the taste of four, overly sugar-filled, Starburst flavors.  These are strong.  They pack a punch because, unlike fruit chews, you don't even think to suck on them first.  Because of the candy corn name and image, your instincts tell you to bite down and begin chewing.  That's when you're hit in the face with flavor.  That's not a bad thing, but I'd suggest taking smaller bites.  I basically do that with regular and Starburst Candy Corn, anyway.  I bite the top white part off first, then the middle, and finally the bottom.  With this candy, it's probably the best bet.

I'd definitely recommend Starburst Candy Corn if for no other reason that it's a brand new Halloween candy.  I'll stick with the original candy corn from now on, but I had to try these.  They're worth the buy and, from what I am seeing, they're selling fast! If you like the taste of Starburst and the texture of candy corn, then that's what you'll get.  They're even chipped, broken, and stuck together.  Look at the red one, it looks like a bloody vampire tooth.  Tell yourself that when you try these.  You'll feel like more of a badass. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Return of Fruity Yummy Mummy

And here. We. Go... If you're reading this, there's no way you could have missed the re-design of The Holidaze.  I like to call it my Halloween costume because, yes, on August 26th, 2013, The Holidaze is all decked out for the Halloween season.  I was going to wait.  I told myself over and over again that it's too early.  Last year, I waited until September 1st and, even then, I thought it was too early.  But Fall is right around the corner and, this year, companies are going all out and doing their best to make this the best Halloween of all-time!  That, along with last night's find, meant I could no longer wait.  Out with Slimer and in with this year's biggest attraction.

I decided to take the two-block walk to Walgreens yesterday to see if they had their Halloween products out on shelves. Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard about the return of Fruity Yummy Mummy and Frute Brute.  I've been looking for them like a mad man everywhere! Lately, in terms of Halloween, they're all I've really cared about.  So, I figured - students are just about ready to go back to school and Sunday is always a good time to check for new inventory.  I walked around for a second, attempting to build up the anticipation, before walking over to their seasonal aisle.  I turned the corner and.. BOOM.. absolutely nothing!  Books, folders, pencils, and pens.  There weren't even any orange boxes on the higher shelves.  What a bust.  Now I had to walk the longest two blocks of my life, empty handed, back home.

But then I remembered that I found them on the end caps, last year.  So I searched every end cap in the store and, again, came up short.  Finally, I walked down the food aisle, looked at the cereal and BOOM.. nothing!  However, I did notice that there was a lot of empty space on the shelves and thought, maybe - just maybe - they're stocking up soon!

I figured I'd leave and come back tomorrow.  I turned the corner, and, like a rainbow after a thunderstorm, I saw Frankenberry and Boo Berry sitting in their cases just waiting to be opened and stocked.  You would have thought I struck gold.  I knew this was my chance.  I also knew I could have asked somebody to check the back, but I actually enjoyed lurking around waiting for a possible appearance from Yummy Mummy.  It was like waiting for a fashionably late rock star to finally hit the stage for his first concert in 23 years.  I creeped around like a loser, down the froze foods aisle and, BOOM.. for real!

Finding the boxes on the shelf is always a thrill, but this was much cooler.  If you've read The Holidaze in previous years, you understand how big of a role the Monster Cereals play in enhancing the Halloween experience.  Not only are they nostalgic, they're awesome characters with different personalities that relate to the season.  Their boxes also make for great art and, as a graphic designer, I always appreciate that.  So to have Fruity Yummy Mummy back for the first time since 1990 is amazing.  It was like I discovered King Tut's tomb at a Walgreens in Jersey City.  Look at him, just lying there in his coffin.  I eagerly grabbed the tiny employee, asked him if I was able to open the box (like I was going to take no for an answer?) and took two home with me.

I know many of you might have purchased more than two boxes, if not the whole case.  I get that and I almost did!  But I'm waiting for the Retro Box pictured above.  Exclusive to Target, all 5 General Mills Monsters - Count Chocula, Frankenberry, Boo Berry, Yummy Mummy, and Frute Brute - will be available in their retro packaging!!  That's just insane!  For the last two years, I've been collecting cereal box art to display, framed, in my future kitchen.  I'm stocking up and, in that time, I've searched for an affordable Yummy Mummy on Ebay every month.  Every time there's one available, it sells for well over $100.  Now, thanks to General Mills, I'll be able to find all 5 for retail price.  It's a Halloween miracle!

The back of the box features a great illustration.  The "Big Three" hear something spooky as they eat their cereal in the light of a "fruity moon." After reluctantly going to check it out, they're scared down into the dungeon where they're approached by yet another spooky creature.  First of all, I like the fact that Count, Frank, and Boo are all afraid.  It highlights the spirit of the characters.  Second, it's a great story to bring back Yummy Mummy and Frute Brute.  At the end of the day, these 5 are friends and, like Brute says, "It's been years!"  Finally, thanks to that rare fruity moon, all 5 are together for the first time ever in 2013!

On the side of the box, General Mills asks you to play some "Mega Monster Trivia."  What this tells me, along with everything else, is that the General Mills marketing team knows exactly who their target market is.  While all cereal is geared toward kids, this comeback was made for the adults and kids at heart.  I'm 26-years-old and I've never had Yummy Mummy.  Frute Brute was discontinued before I was even born, so even I'm a bit out of their range.  I just happen to be somebody who's obsessed with these characters and have been for years.  I even had the classic Yummy Mummy banner up top, last year.  I mean, I can't tell you how many times I've emailed or tweeted General Mills in an attempt to resurrect these guys.  I knew, just like all of you knew, that this would be a major hit.  So far, the hype has been unbelievable.

First, we have to talk about the way these legends look.  I don't know if they're ghosts or Pac-Man characters, but they're classic and the color is extremely vibrant.  I took photos outside in order to have the sunlight really illuminate their brightness.  It's basically a concoction of pink, red, yellow, and orange frosted cereal with purple, yellow, and lime green marshmallows.  It's beautiful.

Next, let's talk about the smell.  Usually, whenever you open up a box of General Mills Monster Cereal, you're smacked in the face by the fruity (or chocolatey) odor.  But, with Fruity Yummy Mummy, there wasn't much of a scent at all.  I think that's a testament to it's flavor - Orange Cream!  That's an interesting choice, but I was excited to see what they had in store for me!

I reallllly like the Orange Cream flavor!  Man, it's so different!  I know that the original Yummy Mummy had a different taste.  It was apparently more "fruity" rather than focusing on just one fruit, but I was too young to tell you which is better.  I don't know what the original tasted like, but I can tell you that this is awesome.  It reminds me a lot of Trix.  Imagine taking all of the yellow and orange Trix cereal, pouring them into a bowl, and eating them with marshmallows.  It's like that, but different.  It's hard to explain, but it's unlike any flavor I've ever had from a cereal.  It's a home run for GM!

I feel like Fruity Yummy Mummy and Frute Brute are the closest things we currently have to Jurassic Park.  Everybody thought these guys were extinct.  Even though we had always hoped to see some sap at General Mills bring them back, (see what I did there?) we knew it wasn't likely.  We knew it would be a long shot.  But now, here we are!  Here they are, in our presence, back in our lives to be loved and enjoyed!  It's pretty awesome and based on the amount of attention they've received in the last week, I know I'm not the only one pumped to see these pop icons back on shelves.  We just have to hope that Newman doesn't turn out the lights.  I'd hate to see what Yummy Mummy is capable of in the dark..

After snagging two boxes from the case, I asked the manager at Walgreens if he had any Frute Brute in the back.  He responded, "Froot Loops? Yeah we have that."  No no no no no... "Frute Brute! It's new.  Well, actually it's old but it's back with Yummy Mummy.  Ya know, this one?"  He looked at me, completely lost, assuming I was deranged.  Can't blame him, I'm the one asking for cereal that hasn't existed since the 80s.  He shrugged me off by saying "Uh, oh no, we didn't order that one."  From what I'm hearing, that honestly seems to be the case with most Walgreens.  What's the deal with that?  No love for Frute Brute?  He said the Halloween stuff would be out by Tuesday so to check back then.  I will and if.. no, WHEN I find Frute Brute, I'll be sure to give him his due on The Holidaze.  I can't wait.

Since it was first announced that Yummy Mummy and Frute Brute would be making their return to stores, it's been a whirlwind of excitement for nerds like me who share a love for the little things that make us happy.  It's all thanks to General Mills who, unlike most corporations, actually listened to their fans.  They realized that these legendary figures were in high demand and they supplied.  But they also went the extra mile.  While they could have just released these two in their modern 2013 boxes alone, they chose to include 5 retro boxes to truly set this Halloween apart from everything else.  That's the type of fan loyalty that leads to brand loyalty.  It's the type of business that should open the eyes of companies like Coca-Cola, who owns Minute Maid, to get Hi-C Ecto Cooler back out on shelves.  Yeah, I get that there's licensing behind that, but they could at least release the flavor, dye it green, and call it "Green Tangerine."  No excuses.  Do that and you'll be just as loved as General Mills is right now.  You'll also make a bunch of money.  Nostalgia is in!!  Adults who were kids 20-years ago want to experience that all over again and share it with their friends.  General Mills realizes that.  Who's next?

I don't know if Yummy Mummy is available in your area, but check Walgreens to see if they have it in stock.  My local manager said that the sale date was August 20th but he had to wait for school inventory to sell first.  So, they should have it in the back if it's not on display.  Even if they have no idea what you're talking about, give it a shot.  You're the smart one for knowing all about Yummy Mummy, anyway.  No sight of retro boxes yet, but when I find them, they'll be here!

Summer's not over, but like it or not, Halloween is here :)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Darkwing Duck - The Unreleased Series Two

Like any young boy growing up, I absolutely loved action figures.  It all started with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but it spiraled out of control from there.  I had everything you could imagine.  While wrestling figures grew to be my largest of collections, there were countless brands and loves of mine that came and went throughout my life.  Where they went, I have no idea.  As I got older, I sold a lot of the WWE figures that occupied so much of my time as a young teen and, yes, well into my high school years.  But what happened to the Turtles? Batman? Power Rangers? I wish I knew.  They may be around somewhere, but in the meantime, the Internet is an awesome place to rediscover what I once loved so much.

Photo Credit : ToysTable.Com

One of my favorite cartoons of all-time is "Darkwing Duck."  Man, I spent hours and hours watching "DW" and Launchpad McQuack fight crime and get dangerous.  I took my action figures, created scenarios, and had them save the world.  The best part was having toys from different brands come together to do battle.  I'd have Darkwing Duck join forces with the Ninja Turtles to defeat Shredder and Bushroot.  I was obsessed and, as I reached adulthood and could appreciate the memories more, I looked into the series further.  I purchased the series on DVD and looked on IMDB to discover voice over artists.  One day, about two-years ago,  I even contacted (among others) the voice of Launchpad, Terence McGovern.  The next day, I received an awesome e-mail from the man himself.

That was pretty awesome.  Hearing a voice actor, one who gives life to your favorite characters, say your name and talk to you as that character is just an awesome experience.  There's a reason why these guys get such a huge ovation when they do their voices at Comic Conventions.  The crowd loves it!  But the coolest part is that nobody calls me "Cliffy" unless you knew me as a kid.  My family still calls me Cliffy, but if anybody new says it, it just sounds weird.  But being that I watched Launchpad as a kid, it was only right that he surprised me with that mention at the end.  In my head, Launchpad is forever a real-life, walking, talking, duck who flies (and crashes) airplanes.  Nostalgia at its finest!

Photo Credit : NewGrounds.Com

Series 1 of the "Darkwing Duck Collection" was awesome.  I have especially fond memories of Mega Volt who was given to me by my Father on Valentines Day when I was about 4 or 5 years-old.  It surprised me because, even at that young age, I thought Valentines Day was for couples and, if nothing else, girls.  But my Dad was always spoiling me and, really, it was just another reason to make me happy.  That's definitely a trait I've carried over into my adult life.

Now, lately, so many companies are cashing in on nostalgia by bringing back classics in modern and retro form.  If you've been following my Instagram account, you know that Playmates has not only reissued their 80s TMNT line, but they've also remodeled the Turtles for their "Classic Collection."  For somebody like me, who, as an adult, has only looked at toys as an admirer, it's enticed me into purchasing them and keeping them on display.  It's also reignited my love for action figures and the ones I used to have.  On top of that, the "retro resurgence" has given me hope for a "Darkwing Duck - Series 2" release.  I know it'll never happen.  But I said that about Fruity Yummy Mummy and Frute Brute, too.

Photo Credit : PoeGhostal.Com

As I mentioned, Series 1 was awesome, but Series 2 would have blown that out of the water.  Speaking of water, we were supposed to have Liquidator on our shelves.  For those unfamiliar, Liquidator was a super villain dog who turned into a being made entirely out of water.  This gave him the ability to change form and liquify into various shapes. You could imagine how much he annoyed me as DW did battle, but he was actually one of my favorite characters.  I loved his voice, I loved his color, and I love that his figure would have been see-through.  As if I've never seen plastic, before.

We also would have gotten Morgana and Darkwing's arch nemesis, Nega Duck!  There have been a few customs floating around the internet using a repainted Darkwing Duck, but that's not the same.  Having an actual Nega Duck figure, on a card designed like only Playmates can, would have been so cool.  I actually want one now more than I did as a kid.  I could, at some point, see Nega Duck being a Comic-Con exclusive, but wouldn't hold my breath.  Good idea, though!

But no figure would have been more highly sought after than the one and only Gizmoduck.  This is probably one of the most popular characters from the series.  He first debuted in DuckTales and later appeared in Darkwing Duck as Launchpad's old buddy.  If Duckburg had an Iron Man, he'd be Gizmoduck.  The only thing I can't tell is if he'd actually roll on that wheel or be a stand-alone figure.  Either way, Gizmoduck not only makes this ad, he would have made series 2!

It's a shame these never saw the light of day, but that's the way things went for every toon featured on The Disney Afternoon.  It was a different time and no show really reached the popularity of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I know that I was hooked.  I loved every show The Disney Afternoon had to offer and still put all but "Gargoyles" and "Bonkers" in my top 10.  In recent years, we've seen a few t-shirts at Hot Topic, Vinylmation figures, and DuckTales: Remastered (which I'll review when it comes to Xbox,) but nothing would compare to a surprise re-issue (and first-time release) of Darkwing Duck action figures.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Surf City - Jersey City

Because I'm from Jersey City, NJ, I don't know what the general consensus is around the nation when it comes to my hometown.  Sure, we all know NJ is the "Armpit of America."  Believe me, I've been on the NJ Turnpike and I know exactly why we have such a smelly reputation.  When it comes to Jersey City, I've heard different views.  On one hand, Jersey City is an urban area filled with low lives and gang bangers.  On the other hand, Jersey City is a gateway to Hoboken and NYC, on the rise downtown, and the perfect place to raise a family.  Believe it or not, both of those statements are true.  Just like any major city, it's just a matter of where you go (and where you never would) and who you associate yourself with.  But, never in my life did I expect to find such an awesome place so close to home and right under my nose.  Surf City is an AMAZING location and, last week, we spent three days there because we just couldn't get enough!

We had multiple friends tell us about Surf City and every review was positive.  We were intrigued, but never took the time to drive 15 minutes away and check it out.  Looking back, I wish we had dived in sooner because we missed out on so many beautiful Summer days, and nights, that could have been spent at this beautiful mega bar.  Don't let my picture or the exterior view fool you.  This isn't some run-down shack.  This is the beach, this is the jersey shore, this is the Caribbean all wrapped into one giant ball and placed right along the Hudson River.

To paraphrase Surf City's official "about us" section, Surf City is both an indoor and outdoor bar and restaurant that sits directly on the water with beautiful views of NYC, the Statue of Liberty, and Liberty Science Center.  We first came to Surf City on a Sunday and it was absolutely beautiful!  The sun was shining, the clouds were sparse, and the crowd Surf City attracted was just my type.  There was nothing rowdy about this location at all and I liked that!  There were parents with newborn babies, dog lovers with their pups, young, old, and new couples enjoying the scenery.  Being there felt comfortable and that was what stood out most.

Before we did anything else, we wanted to look around and see what they had to offer.  We could have been seated by a hostess, but we chose to scope the joint out before settling down.  We noticed the incredible view of the water and skyline, we realized how many bars and tables they have for patrons, they have benches and chairs throughout the mega bar, and my favorite part, the sand pit that allows guests to have a seat in the sand and place your food and drinks right on the table.  A waiter or waitress even comes around to take your order.  Where you live, this may be common, but you don't find anything like this in Jersey City.  I was mesmerized by it all and, really, the service is what sets it all over the top.  Had they been rude, all of this ambiance goes right into the river.  But let me tell ya, these guys do it all right!

To be exact, there are five bars throughout the location with one, inside, being completely devoted to making frozen drinks and "buckets."  Because it gets crowded as the day progresses into night, this is an important perk.  Having the ability to choose from one of five bars to get a drink at a busy hour limits your wait time and gets you back to your company.  That's great!  In our three times there, we never waited for a drink and our bartenders were always there with another before we finished the last.  Not only is it good for business, it's good for my buzz :)

I stuck with Coors Light on all three days, but Eileen varied a bit and started the day off with a bucket.  To be more precise, she kicked it off with "Voodoo Juice."  I tried it and it was good!  Imagine an ice cold coconut drink!  Sure, it was a bit expensive, but you get what you pay for.  Besides, it's no small feat.  It's a pretty big drink that's mixed with some hard liquor.  You drink two or three "Voodoo Juice" buckets and you'll be casting more spells than Papa Shongo.  (if you don't know who that is, you're not paying attention to The Holidaze!)

After the beer and bucket, we were on to the next round.  I'm boring, so I stayed with the Coors, but this time Eileen chose to go with her first frozen margarita ever.  They call this one the Strawberry Rita at Surf City and it's only $10.  I think that's a pretty good deal and, in that setting, it's only right that you sit back, toes in the sand, sipping on an ice cold tropical drink.  If you can't make it to the Bahamas, or even if you can't make it down the shore, Surf City is absolutely perfect.  For us, there's no better staycation.

Changing gears, Eileen went from tropical drinks to beer.  But not just any beer, this was "Angry Orchard."  Ever heard of it?  I didn't until this day, but I've always been intrigued by seasonal beers.  It all started last year when I tried my first pumpkin flavored beer.  I didn't really care for it, but that's because I'm picky.  But apple is right down my alley and this was amazing.  The flavor is sweet and tangy.  It draws a fine line between Summer and Fall, but it's sooo good and, when it's that cold, it hits the spot on an 80 degree day.  This is definitely something I'll be looking for as we enter September.

Surf City has plenty of craft beers on tap and these two from Blue Moon, Agave Nectar Ale and Belgian White, stood out.  I, regretfully, never tried them at Surf City, but it did lead us to purchasing Agave Nectar later that night and, if you're looking for the perfect Summer beer, that's it!  I know the season is quickly coming to an end, but we're about to hit the 90s again this week and I'm going to soak up every last drop of Summer I can get.  Believe me, I'm more than ready for Fall and Halloween.  But Surf City makes me long for just a few more weeks!

Our friend met us later that day, but prior plans meant the party couldn't last.  But we had time for some food and one more drink.  Although I didn't snap a picture, we ordered fries and mozzarella sticks to go along with Eileen's "Mango Tango" and my final beer for the day.  It could have been the alcohol talking, but we thought the food was amazing, especially the fries!  They season them just right and, along with the mozzarella sticks, we were in foodie heaven.  It was a great way to end our first time at Surf City but, little did we know, we had only just begun.

After mentioning to my Mom, who loves anything that involves the beach and Sun, just how great Surf City was, she was intrigued.  Apparently, Surf City used to be known as the Sand Bar but, according to her, was very loud and attracted a more raucous crowd.  She was surprised to hear how much it had changed and was glad we had such a good time.  The next morning, she tells me that she and my Aunt are going to Surf City.  I guess I had really sold the mega bar, well eh?  

Of course we joined them! It's always great spending time with family and I take the opportunity to do so whenever it comes up.  This was the perfect time and place to share quality time with my two favorite ladies in the world.  We enjoyed drinks, food, and a lot of laughs.  My aunt, who isn't pictured, is the true matriarch of my entire family and was the driving force behind this outing.  I'm grateful that she decided to coordinate this little event at Surf City because the four of us had a wonderful time and created some great memories.  On top of that, it was already later in the day so we got to enjoy Surf City at night.

As the sun set, Surf City began to illuminate and shine bright in the night's sky.  It was serene.  The water was calm, the breeze was cool, and the music was just a tad bit louder in the background.  A little Margaritaville enhances the experience and makes you feel like you're really in a tropical destination on vacation.  You forget where you are and, if I didn't tell you, you'd never guess that you're in Jersey City.  For a while, even I had to question where I really was!


When the Sun finally drops, lights glow from all around Surf City and it's gorgeous.  Between the environment, the people, the weather, and the company, I couldn't have asked for a better night.  If you look closely above, there are fire pits lit at tables in the sand.  Even when it's not cold outside, it's there for you to make yourself even more comfortable.  It's something that Surf City doesn't have to do, but does anyway.  I've mentioned "going the extra mile" time and time again on The Holidaze and that's always what separates good from great.  That's why Surf City is great.

Need more proof?  Take a look at this sign placed at the exit.  Surf City already offers free parking in a huge lot, but if you've had too much to drink and can't drive home, they're happy to oblige.  Simply leave your license plate number with the manager and they'll keep your car safe and sound until you can soberly return to pick it up.  That's class, people!  That's really taking an interest in your well being and the well being of others.  We didn't need this service, but I'm sure people do at times and it's good to see it offered.  Again, it's something they don't have to do, but do anyway

Round Three at Surf City and I had to take a picture of my angel with the beautiful skyline behind her.  She even wore her shirt to match the Surf City logo ha!  I'm lying, but are we loving this place or what?  We didn't have much time on our third trip, but we had to stop in for a drink and some burgers.  They're just too good to pass up!

If you come to Surf City for nothing else, then come for the food!  These burgers are out of this world.  This time, I know it wasn't the alcohol talking because I only had one beer.  I'm the pickiest eater in the world, hence why I don't have any lettuce, tomato, onions, or sauce on my bacon cheeseburger, but I still know a good burger when I see it and this is awesome.  For $11, you get the burger and fries and, look, it's not small.  You're getting your moneys worth!  The fries alone are good enough to spend 11 bucks, but the burger just sets everything apart.  In our time there, we've had the bacon cheeseburger, mozzarella sticks, and fries.  Because I'm picky, I'm not sure what else I'd try, but their menu is packed with shrimp, salad, wings, chicken, burgers, oysters, clams, ribs.. you name it!  If they're anything like what we ate, then it's going to be a success!

I really can't say enough about Surf City.  We had an amazing time all three times and it won't be our last outing.  To tell you the truth, we'll probably be there once or twice this week.  The weather is supposed to be beautiful, so we'll probably swing by on Thursday or Friday.  It's just that good!  It's definitely my new favorite place and I'm recommending it to everybody I know.  It may seem like I'm being paid to say all this, but I'm just a new fan of Surf City who wants to spread the word to anybody who will listen.  If you're in the Jersey City area, give it a try.  If you're in NYC, hop on a ferry and dock at Surf City.  You can literally walk up the ramp from your boat and enter the bar.  I saw people show up on jet ski's and kayaks!  By land or by sea, nobody can get enough of Surf City!
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