Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!!!

Where did the time go? It feels like only yesterday that we were scouring the aisles of Target and Walgreens in search of the resurrected Frute Brute and Yummy Mummy cereals.  Now, I have 14 boxes in my kitchen (seriously!) For a season that seemed to never get here fast enough, it sure came and went in a hurry.  Believe me, It was an awesome Halloween season, but I just can't believe that the day is almost over.  Halloween and Christmas battle to become my favorite day of the year, but Christmas 2013 will have to do a lot to top this Halloween.  Granted, the last half of my holiday was spent working a new job, but that didn't really keep me from celebrating this amazing time of year.  Unfortunately, it did take a major toll on this blog that I love so much, but I literally had no time to both personally partake in the festivities and write about it.  Well, that's until now as I attempt to pack in the last few weeks in a one-off post.

Because I'm currently working in Upstate NY, I've been put up at the Holiday Inn courtesy of my employer.  It has it's pros and cons, one being that I'm away from home without any Internet, but there is a nearby Target and that was enough for me.  Most people would stock up on food to survive.  You know, food that is actually nourishing and healthy for your life.  Me?  No.  I picked up Frankenberry, Count Chocula, Halloween Oreo Cookies, a bag of Doritos, Goober Peanut Butter and Jelly, and a case of Cranberry Splash Sierra Mist.  Where are the bananas?  Where are the apples and strawberries?  I'm sure they're somewhere in the artificial ingredients and that's enough for me to justify my actions.

After a long day of work, there's really nothing better than coming back to a lonely hotel room where you find your old friend Frank waiting to cheer you up.  Monster Cereals are truly the kings of Halloween 2013 and, really, it was only right that I enjoyed the Frankenberry flavor on a cold, gloomy night in Middletown, NY.  It really made my night and, until I could get home for the weekend, kept the Halloween spirit alive.

While walking the aisles of Target, I found this Pillsbury Caramel Apple icing and immediately texted my Girlfriend.  In all seriousness, nobody makes cupcakes like Eileen.  I've been to the best bakeries in NYC and, honestly, they don't even come close.  Whatever she does to the batter makes all the difference and I knew these were a must-try.  I said "Hey, if you wanna make cupcakes this weekend, I mean, these would be great.. Just saying."  Or something like that.  Then, when I got home on Friday night...

Caramel Apple Cupcakes!  She not only used the icing, but the batter shared the same flavor.  It was such an awesome surprise and the best way to keep the season flowing.  When you're alone, about an hour away, you tend to forget about what's fun or what makes you happy and tend to just eat and go to sleep.  Every weekend, I tried to create a memory with my Girlfriend and family.  I knew it wouldn't be much, but if I could do something fun and enhance the "Holidaze," that was enough.  Caramel Apple Cupcakes with a can of Jones Candy Corn soda screamed Halloween enough for my enthusiasm to stay awake.

Continuing the weekend of 10/19, we went on a Haunted Hayride with Eileen's family in Marlboro, NJ.  To be exact, it was at C. Casola Farms and it was a great time.  We'd been there before, about 3-years ago, when we took her brother, who was 9 at the time, on his first Hayride.  This time, the acting and presentation wasn't as good, but the amount of people we had there made up for it.  Her siblings and cousins all range from 11-17 years-old, so they either lied and said they weren't scared or said they were too old to admit it.  At the end of the day, they were all screaming, shrieking, and sighing.  It was hilarious.  Yet, still, Eileen was the one who reacted most.  To the point that the actors figured out her name and truly entered the psyche.  That was pretty cool.  Since I'm not easily startled and go more for the environment, I get a huge kick out of others in terrifying fear :)

After another week of work, it was back home this past weekend for the annual Halloween party in Hoboken, NJ.  Usually, I like to make my own costume or do something original that not many take the time to do.  But, this year, I'm one of those who didn't have time and Eileen suggested that we go as zombies.  My love for The Walking Dead made me think yes, but her ideas for make-up made me SAY yes!  She did an amazing job through the use of liquid latex, tissue paper, oatmeal, zombie dirt, and fake blood.  Of course, the contacts were a must for it to all work out!

I'm so so happy that we decided to go as zombies because they were a HUGE hit!  To my surprise, there weren't any other zombies walking the streets which helped us really stand out.  We were getting shout-outs from drunks, scared a few black women who loved the AMC hit, and even won $50 from the DJ at Bahama Mamas.  Overall, it was an amazing night with even better friends and I'm happy it all worked out.

Hanging with this guy, my friend James, has become a Halloween tradition.  While I try to stand out for being something original and cool, he tries to do the same with something so outlandish that nobody would actually dress up in that costume.  Last year, he went as George Washington.  This year, he went as King Tut.  No, he's not a history buff, he's just crazy.  He received just as much attention as I did, with a few more laughs, for being a wild pharaoh.  Thanks for the shots, @Jamesapalooza!

Thankfully, the hangover on 10/27 wasn't bad and we were able to hop on the PATH train for a little bit of Halloween fun in NYC.  4-days before the big day, but everybody was already decked out in Halloween costumes.  We saw kids everywhere and their parents were so proud to show them off.  Some people might think, uh, wait for the 31st, but screw that!  Start Halloween as early as possible and make it last even longer.  These families had it right and it set us up for and even better day at Jekyll and Hyde!

I won't bore you with the details, but this is an amazing restaurant that I've overlooked for far too long.  It's filled with animatronics and props that express the true emotion of Halloween and Horror perfectly.  Each display tells a story and brings you right into their world.  Not to mention, the food was delicious.  We had an amazing time and loved interacting with the costumed characters.  Like I said, I won't get into every tiny detail, but if you're interested in reading more, check out Veggie Macabre's review and really dive into Jekyll and Hyde.

As we walked through the Village, I told Eileen "I'm having a Halloween sensory overload."  She laughed, but I was dead serious - no pun intended.  These people know how to decorate in a way that is too small for a suburban town, but just enough for a major city.  Skeletons hanging from buildings, tiny pumpkin clings on windows, monsters in store displays, and the smell of fall in the air.  We couldn't walk a single block without seeing a decoration and it made me want to visit them tonight for the Halloween Parade in the Village.  Had I gotten out of work just a few hours earlier, I would have ended my season with a bang.  But hey, a long over due Holidaze post doesn't hurt, either!

The famous Magnolia bakery went all out for Halloween, too!  But, by the time we got there, they were all sold out and we settled for regular flavors.  Eh, it was good enough.  They had these oldies in the window, but they were still cool enough for me to photograph and share with you.  While I had to go back to my hotel in NY, it gave me an idea and I knew I'd be home on the 30th and 31s, no matter how tired I'd be, to share those days with my number one Ghoul and family!

On my way home, I stopped at Dunkin Donuts for a mixture of Halloween donuts.  For me, it's a tradition.  If I don't have an orange donut during October, then it wasn't really Halloween.  I had these 6 last night and I picked one up this morning before going into work.  It's mandatory and, if they're still available tomorrow, I'll extend the season into November and get another one.  They're just so much better when they're black and orange!

I got out early yesterday and was back home by 4pm.  That was a blessing because we were able to take our cupcake idea and put it into action.  Okay, it was my idea and I did nothing else after that, but Eileen did wonders with Monster Cereals, Halloween Crunch, and some icing!  Above, you see vanilla cupcake batter mixed with Count Chocula, Halloween Crunch, Yummy Mummy, and Frankenberry!

We've done this in the past, but we didn't have Yummy Mummy and Frute Brute and that meant it had to be done again!  So, to up the ante, we threw the cereal into the batter and dyed the YM and FB cupcakes orange and red, respectively!

They are absolutely delicious and, in my opinion, look just as good as they taste!!  Our only mistake was forgetting to pick up chocolate icing for Count Chocula.  So, in anybody asks, the vanilla icing is milk and the chocolate cereal represents Count Chocula in the bowl.  Yeah, we're going to get technical on Halloween!

Yeah, lots of pics...  But, let's face it, Halloween 2013 belongs to cereal and it's what truly made the season what it was!  It had to be part of my conclusion because it was the only fitting ending to what was the greatest Halloween season in a very long time!

Sure, I have a few regrets.  I wish I would have gone to more Haunted Houses, especially Terror Behind the Walls in Philly, and I wish I spent more time on The Holidaze, but I have to remember why I was held back a bit this year.  I've been blessed with a new job that will allow me to create even better memories in the future and that's enough for me to sacrifice a bit more this year for later.

To all my readers, old and new, THANK YOU!  I had more hits than ever but, more importantly, had great interaction with so many of you!  Before I started the countdown, and even back in May, I purposely deleted a bunch of fake Twitter followers and accounts in order to create better communication with people actually interested in The Holidaze.  That was the best decision I made this year because I've been able to make so many "Internet Friends" who share so many of the same interests and made this blog worth putting time and effort into.  Hey, together, we got Wes Craven to tweet about a fake box of Hi-C.  How crazy is the power of the Internet?  I couldn't have had such a wonderful Halloween experience without all of you and I really do appreciate your time, support, and friendship.  Unless I'm being Catfished, you're all amazing people.

As I write this, the commercial for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular is playing, so I guess Halloween really is over, but I hate to say goodbye.  I love this day, I love this season, and I don't want to see it end.  Does it really have to?  That's up to us..  Personally, I keep things going for another week or so.  Besides Thanksgiving, November doesn't offer much to start so, hey, let's keep watching Horror movies, eat a bunch of sugary cereal, throw back some candy corn and seasonal drinks, and enjoy what's left of the spooky season!  Tonight, I'll be watching Trick R Treat with my lady and, out of tradition, we'll be going to Pizza Hut for dinner.  That goes back to a Universal Monsters promotion that stuck with me since the 90s.  It's all about creating memories and sharing experiences.  That's what we've done here, together, and will continue to do as we celebrate The Holidaze!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Holidaze Hi-C Horror Collection - Series 3

We are only 11 days away from Halloween and, thanks to my hectic schedule, I won't be getting to half of what I was hoping to before the big day.  It sucks, because I really wanted to pack in as much as possible to make up for the season that Hurricane Sandy stole from us last year, but real life and responsibility has been asking too much to devote my time to the fun stuff.  Oh well!  I can't complain too much because, in the end, my life is progressing and, maybe next year, I'll be able to do things I couldn't dream of doing this year.  It's all part of the plan, I guess.  But anyway, I'm back on this fine Sunday with Series 3 of the Holidaze Hi-C Horror Collection!!  As the banner depicts, this set is dedicated to the original Universal Monsters and is entirely retro!  I've had this planned since I first kicked off the collection, so I hope you enjoy what will be the final set of the 2013 Halloween season.

I intentionally avoided being too creative with the flavor names because I wanted these to have a retro feel and, to be honest, they weren't all that creative back in the day.  They were either overly cheesy, or painfully obvious.  Both of which I tried to be with these boxes.  That's not to say they aren't good, because I wouldn't post them if I wasn't proud of my work, but in order to create the right vibe, I went a different route with a few of them.

While I kept the characters in their original black & white form, I wanted the retro Hi-C box to represent them and their flavor in color.

Probably one of the most underrated Universal Monsters, but perfect for this type of project.  The flavor name allowed me to use green and yellow on a juice box and, that alone, is enough to make this one of my favorites.

 I call him Frankenstein, but some of you may call him "Frankenstein's Monster."  You're probably right and I'll take that on the chin, but to avoid any drama or arguments, I paid tribute to the classic "Monster Mash" song and named this "Monster's Mash" to create a Fruit Punch drink.

I love this one.  For this one, I did get a little overly creative with the name, but it came to me and I ran with it.  Between the flavor name and the colors, another underrated Universal Monster can't be missed.  How ironic.
This was the first Universal Monsters box I designed and, in all honesty, it's probably not the best.  It gets the job done and depicts Dracula and his love for blood well enough, but I could have done better.  I was just getting the ball rolling and wanted to use the most famous monster of them all to kick things off.  I'd drink it.

There's just something about purple, white, and black that works perfectly for a Mummy drink.  I don't know why, but I love the way this looks much more than I love the flavor name.  But it rhymed and that works enough for me.
Does a Wolfman drink water like a dog does from a bowl?  I have no idea, but I'm going to say yes.  He must be thirsty after all that howling, so why not sip some Wolfman Water and give yourself some flavor to soothe that sore throat.  See how much logic I have to put behind this to justify my names?
This one is my favorite.  The Bride of Frankenstein is far from my favorite Universal character, but "Something Blue" has been waiting to see the light of day since I first envisioned the juice box and it came out just as I imagined.  If you don't understand the reference, they claim every bride should have "Something borrowed, something blue, something old, and something new."  See the correlation?  Now we have a blueberry flavored Hi-C juice box to celebrate every and all Weddings.  If this were real, I'd expect every bride to walk down the aisle while sipping "Something Blue."

Thanks for reading (especially since I've become a ghost) and continuing to celebrate the season with me.  I wish I could get more out of it, but the next 11 days will probably be just as busy as the last.  I don't even have a costume or any ideas in mind :(  Hopefully you're all having a much more eventful October than my 2nd half has been.  If you have any stories or pictures to share and enhance the season, tweet me @HolidazeBlog.  I'll read them while I pretend to work :)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Jolly Rancher Caramel Apple Lollipops

Well, it's been a while and I don't like that.  I recently started a new job and that's great news, but it requires so much time and effort that I now find myself in bed by 10pm every night.  That leaves very little time for The Holidaze and, personally, my Halloween season is taking a big hit.  But that doesn't mean the season is dead, that just means I have to go about things differently.  While I may not be able to post as often, I'll still do my best to make the most out of the spooky time of year and share those experiences with all of you.  To make somewhat of a comeback, I bring to you a product I've yet to see on any other blogs..

Jolly Rancher Caramel Apple Lollipops!

My very first Holidaze post focused on Caramel Apple Lollipops.  It featured the classic pops from Tootsie that we've all seen on store shelves.  They used to be a seasonal item, but now you'll find them throughout the entire year.  They're good!  They're green apple flavored with chewy caramel.  9 times outta 10, that equals delicious.  But if I'm being honest, the only reason that was my first post was because it was 9/10/11 and hardly any Halloween products were available.  Yet, I was too excited to start writing and I picked up the first thing I could relate to the season.  Hence, a star was born.  But today, as I tell you about JOLLY RANCHER Caramel Apple Lollipops, it has nothing to do with desperation or needing a filler.  No, these popped out at me and screamed Fall.  Now, if only the weather would be so cooperative.

When I was a kid, my cousin and I used to buy 5 cent Jolly Ranchers all the time.  We loved them.  I used to buy the hard-candy packs and suck on them instead of Halls cough drops when I was sick.  It did nothing to help my cold, but did wonders for the taste buds.  It was like eating Luden's in school.  We all know it was candy we could eat in class and get away with.  I tried doing the same with Jolly Ranchers and my favorite was always Green Apple.  The Watermelon flavor comes in close behind in second, but gets slightly edged out.  So when I saw that my favorite flavor was being combined with the taste of caramel to create an upgraded Caramel Apple Lollipop??  It was on like Donkey Kong.

In terms of packaging, I like these wrappers a lot.  The design doesn't represent Halloween, but it's really not supposed to.  Over the years, thanks to places like Starbucks and Yankee Candle, seasonal products have grown from spooky skulls and Snickers to Pumpkin Spice and Caramel Apple.  Now, as consumers, we get the best of both worlds and, for me, that's what makes Fall the greatest season of all.  Besides the obvious colors, that's what this wrapper symbolizes.

When you compare the way these Jolly Rancher Lollipops look next to the Tootsie variety, there's no contest.  Jolly Rancher wins, hands down.  Unlike the Tootsie Pop, this actually has a shape, size, and texture.  It has a real appearance and isn't just a big blob of candy thrown on a stick.  I know that doesn't seem very important, but I like the extra attention to detail.  These stand out as classics and remind me of when I was a kid and chomped down on cheap Cherry lollipops from the dollar store.  Besides that, I like to think Sam from "Trick R Treat" would use this a substitute if he ever discarded his Pumpkin Sucker.  It looks that cool.

What can I say about flavor?  Well, let me put it this way -- I opened this Caramel Apple Lollipop to try and throw away.  Before I realized it, the entire pop was gone.  It's delicious and, unfortunately for Tootsie, this could put their lollipops out of business.  There's a new hot shot in town and he's sponsored by Jolly Rancher.  With this lollipop, it's completely hard candy.  There's no chewiness or stickiness.  There are no fillings.  It's just a traditional lollipop with two contrasting flavors that work perfectly together.  One second you're tasting the Green Apple Jolly Rancher, then the next you're tasting a Sugar Daddy.  It's a whirlwind of flavor and taste that makes for an awesome Fall treat.  For some reason, these are either underrated or unheard of, but I've only seen them at Rite-Aid and they deserve a chance to shine!

I knew Sam would like the Jolly Rancher Caramel Apple Lollipops!!  They're perfect for Trick R Treating!
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