Thursday, March 20, 2014

Happy Late Patrick's Day

I know I'm three days late and promised that there would be more than one Holidaze post dedicated to St. Patrick's Day but, once again, work got in my way and cut into the fun.  It happens, I accept it, but that doesn't mean we can't be a little bit tardy on the site, right?  I mean, it's always better late than never, especially when it comes to St. Patty's Day!  I don't know about you, but St. Patrick's Day has become one of my favorite days of the year.  Despite what my last name may incline, I'm actually about 95% Irish and come from a very traditional Irish family.  As a kid, I couldn't stand it.  I hated the Irish music, I hated the fact that everybody was drinking, and I would have much rathered spend my Sunday morning watching cartoons than up the block watching the Jersey City St. Patrick's Day parade.  I just wasn't feeling the culture or fun that came with it.  But once I turned 21??  Oh boy, everything changed.  St. Patrick's Day became St. Patrick's Month and I began to embrace and enjoy my time with family and friends.  I guess I can thank beer for the happy transition, but it went beyond that.  For whatever reason, I flipped the switch and welcomed it all and made it my own.  I started listening to The Dropkick Murphy's and Flogging Molly instead of the classics my Mom always played.  I went out to Hoboken for Leprecon and dressed like an idiot.  I dyed beer green and wore the same from head to toe.  It's an absolute blast, but it needs to be embraced.  It doesn't matter what nationality you are, we can all celebrate March 17th in a variety of ways.

Because of work, I didn't celebrate this year nearly as much or as hard as I have in the past.  I missed out on the Jersey City parade, Leprecon, and the weekends building up to the big day.  But, in an attempt to salvage something from it all, Eileen and I kept true to certain traditions throughout last week.  To kick things off, you have to bring home a few green bagels.  It's the perfect way to start the festivities and change your morning's theme.  It's amazing how a simple change in color can also change one's mindset, but I don't ask questions, I just butter it up and consider myself lucky.  This particular bagel was purchased at Wonder Bagels in NJ.  If you're ever in my area, make sure you find one and stop by.  They're delicious.

For me, Dunkin Donuts are synonymous with the holidays and I always appreciate when they release limited-edition flavors or change their icing to match the season.  I wasn't expecting much for St. Patrick's Day, but I stop in every morning for Iced Coffee and was happy to find this green beauty staring back at me.  As soon as I saw the icing, I had to have it.  I didn't care what flavor it was, it just needed to be eaten.  It turned out it's "Green Oreo Mint" and I was actually the first one to buy one at that specific store.  That didn't surprise me, but it's cool enough to brag about on a blog!  The taste?  Nothing amazing, but the look makes up for it's lackluster flavor.  It's certainly Oreo-y, and a bit mint, but overall it's pretty bland and boring.  I only tried it once, but once is all I need.  I just gotta say I tried it!

There's also a "Green Mint Oreo Creme" donut available (at least I think it still is), but I was never a fan of the Boston Creme variety so I stuck with the Strawberry Frosted.  That will always be my favorite Dunkin Donut and the inclusion of Shamrock shaped sprinkles was a nice addition.  If not for those green bits of sugar, there would have been nothing new with the Strawberry Frosted.  Although the flavor and icing color didn't change, a simple sprinkle is all it takes for me to drop a few bucks.  Big spender, right?

This year, for the first time ever, I tried a Shamrock Shake from McDonald's!  I know, I know, it's kinda hard to believe, right?  A guy who devotes his free time to a site that focuses on holidays and nostalgia has never tried a Shamrock Shake?  I'm with you.. I hear you.  This was long overdue!  I grew up looking at these, I vaguely remember Uncle O'Grimacey or at least Internet remnants of his appearance, and should have picked one of these up a long time ago.  It's basically Mint ice cream melted down into a refreshingly cool shake, whipped with a cherry on top.  It's delicious and the only thing I'm mad at is the fact that it took my this long to try one.  Again, the theme of today's post is better late than never and it once again applies to this shake.  One thing I can tell you for sure?  This will now be an annual tradition that I add to the March collection.

I had a box of St. Patrick's Day Lucky Charms last year and knew I'd talk about them if they were released again in 2014.  I didn't branch out as much in 2013, but The Holidaze is attempting to take on all holidays in one way or another.  So, I looked everywhere for the "50 Magical Years" edition.  Shop Rite, Pathmark, Stop & Shop, Wal-Mart, Target - I looked everywhere - but came up short each and every time.  I knew it was available thanks to social media, but I couldn't locate a box, so I gave up.  Then, as I stopped for gas and went into the Exxon for a drink, I looked behind me and saw Lucky jumping out at me as if HE found ME!  It was one of those awesome moments that you never expect, but are more than happy to accept.  Who woulda thought I'd find a box of overpriced cereal at a sketchy Exxon in Jersey City and not at the major retailers?

In terms of flavor, there's nothing new in this box of Lucky Charms.  They taste just as great as they always have.  But the biggest and most important difference?  Those four-leaf clover marshmallows!!  They're perfect for St. Patrick's Day and make for a great limited-edition.  I always feel like Lucky Charms and cereals as a whole can do more to celebrate St. Patty's Day, but the ball is never even picked up let alone dropped.  For the last two years, Lucky Charms has hit a home run and I'm happy they brought these back for another run.  They're hard to find, but the search is complete and the hunt is over.

TruMoo has become one of my favorite brands because they go all out for the holidays.  Remember when they released orange milk for Halloween?  Well, now they're back with GREEN milk for St. Patrick's Day!!  Of course, it doesn't taste like real milk and that's the worst part.  I'd love to pour this into a bowl of cereal or cup of coffee to enhance yet another experience, but this "Lucky Green" milk is Vanilla flavored and is better off on its own.  But besides the colored milk, take a look at the sticker label!  The leprechaun hat, the rainbow, and pot of gold scream St. Patty's Day and stand out just as much as anything else I've seen on store shelves.  It's attractive and lures you in.  Once that happens, I'm pulling out my own green and dropping dollaz!

What's the best way to drink green milk?  Well, out of an oversized Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles beer mug, of course.  Yeah, you'd think I'd reserve that for green beer, but I've done that in the past and this was a welcomed change.  The milk is good, it's very tasty, but it's not something I'd drink on regular basis.  It's a shake in itself and heavy going down.  But when we're talking about appearance, I love the way the green pops off of the different shades of green against other shades of green.  It's a good thing that's my favorite color, otherwise I might have already had enough of this post. 

My girlfriend is one hell of a baker and I wanted to put her culinary skills to good use.  Much like what we did with the General Mills' Monster Cereals, I had the idea of doing the same with our limited-edition Lucky Charms.  I thought long and hard, about 15 seconds, and came up with rainbow cupcakes, topped with green icing and Lucky Charms.  I'm no genius, but I'm even less of a baker, so I went to Eileen with the idea and asked her to make the magic happen.  Before I knew it, she was in the kitchen baking.

Before decorating them, she showed me the rainbow cake and it blew me away.  If I was a kid and had rainbow cake like this, I might have passed out due to brightness.  I honestly never expected these to look so good on the inside.  I figured it would be a mix of rainbow that made some type of dirty brown.  Instead, we have a beautiful butterfly that was ready to be topped with green icing and shamrocks!

I couldn't be happier with how they and the photos came out!!  My girlfriend did one hell of a job and they came out amazing!  We topped a few with the limited Lucky Charms, but others with traditional Lucky Charms because, hey, they're Irish, too!  Especially those rainbows - they were a must!  So overall, I'm thrilled with these cupcakes and think they make for great images and even better snacks to satisfy our tastebuds!

Traditionally, I like to rock green from head to toe when I go out for St. Patrick's Day and I was excited to whip out my new sneakers and take my girl out to Hoboken.  Unfortunately, going out on Monday night is just as boring on St. Patrick's Day as it is on every other week of the year.  We were expecting a lot of people roaming the streets and bar crawling without any Tuesday care.  Work?  Screw that, It's St. Patrick's Day!  But nope.. like that #Selfie song says, "Who goes out on Mondays?"  Apparently we're the uncool ones!  But, still, we made the most of it and had a great time in each others' company.  That's all that matters!

It's a shame that I didn't take each of these topics and spread them out across March.  It would have made my post-count look like I actually have more than enough time to dedicate to The Holidaze, but work sucks, man.  I'd love to sit back and do nothing but talk about food, junk, candy, and toys all day, but the real world always has something to say about that!  Luckily, I found time today to share my St. Patty's week experience with all of you and, again, I hope it's better late than never.  As for those two pics above, they're from our personal Instagram and Twitter accounts that you're more than welcome to follow.  I'm @CKCash30 and Eileen is @Leeni219.  If you're already following @HolidazeBlog, you might like the differences on the others :)

Even though we're 3 days out, I'd like to wish each and every one of you a very Happy St. Patrick's Day and I hope you all enjoyed it as much as - or even more than - I did!  It's always a great time of year and if you haven't embraced March 17th yet, make sure you do in 2015!  You'll thank me later :)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

WWE - Old School Daze

Professional wrestling has, and will continue to be, a bigger part of The Holidaze because, since I was a kid, it's always been a huge part of my life.  I've touched on my stories and passion for the WWE in a few recent posts, but I always wanted to grow up to be WWE Champion.  Suffice it to say - that plan didn't necessarily work out.  But if I could land one dream job, in reality, it would be designing graphics for the WWE.  Those are amongst my two greatest passions and it's always been something I wish I pursued in some way, shape, or fashion.  When I posted the WWE Ice Cream bars, the WWE reached out to me and the Paul Heyman design was actually featured on the WWE app!  That was insane.  It's the closest I'll ever come to Superstardom and, at the end of the day, I can say I was showcased by World Wrestling Entertainment.  If you knew how much that meant to me, you'd understand how big of a deal that is.

I wanted to capitalize on the last idea and continue onward with another.  When there's downtime and we're not celebrating "The Holidaze," I'm always going to find ways to implement and celebrate what I love.  Whether it's wrestling, basketball, food, cartoons, nostalgia or my own personal life, I like changing things up on The Holidaze and doing more than just what's expected from this site's tradition.  Basically, I place no rules or restrictions on what I talk about as long as it interests somebody somewhere.

So running with an idea that came from by high school buddy and true WWE fan, I found some time to take old school WWF products and modernize for today's WWE.  Essentially, that's what I did with the Ice Cream Bars and I absolutely loved taking the old and making it new without changing the nostalgia attached to the overall feel.  It's that type of art and approach that I love spending time on when I have it.  

So here are a few new designs based on two of my favorite childhood products - action figures and video games!

I had the original King of the Ring Gameboy game, as is the case with every game featured tonight, and it's a clear indicator of how far we've come graphically.  On the original cover, Bret Hart was featured as the prominent superstar and when I think back to the King of the Ring, I'll always associate the Hitman with the crown.  Owen is, of course, a close second as the King of Harts.  In my version, I used Dolph Ziggler.  He's one of my favorite in-ring performers and one of the guys I'd love to see get a well-deserved push in the near future.  Along with him, we have Sheamus (the last King of the Ring,) Fandango (another guy with great talent,) and Roman Reigns (the next big thing.)

When I think of "Superstars," the television show, I think back to the early 90s.  I remember watching Superstars with my cousin and grandfather at his house on warm, sunny, Saturdays.  Nowadays, Superstars is used as a tool to showcase the up-and-comers who have plenty of potential and are on pace to be the Superstars of tomorrow.  In this edition, I showcased Sin Cara, a favorite of children, Big E. Langston, the Intercontinental Champion and, one of my personal favorites, Zack Ryder.  Ryder is a guy who should be in the top tier of talent, but has been kept at the bottom for one reason or another.  Perhaps a change in character is needed, but I'm a big fan of Ryder and positioned him in place of the immortal Hulk Hogan on this modernized Superstars Game Boy Game.

Whenever I went down the shore to spend hours upon hours in the arcades, there were 3 games that always wiped me clean of my quarters - TMNT: The Arcade Game, The Simpson's, and WWF WrestleFest.  WrestleFest was one of the most amazing games I'd ever played because of the graphics.  Compared to Nintendo and Sega, arcade games were so far advanced that it was amazing to see my favorite Superstars in all their glory.  We were able to pick from a wide array of wrestlers and work our way up through the ranks to a title match.  Everything from the music to the visuals are a nostalgic hit for me and I still go back and play this classic on emulators.  This was an ad for WrestleFest that I updated to include today's top stars.

Super WrestleMania on Sega Genesis was never one of my favorites, but I really love the box art and definitely had to update this one for today's WWE and this year's WrestleMania 30.  I wanted to incorporate the three top matches represented in New Orleans so I chose the 5 Superstars you see above.  John Cena, the true face of the WWE, represents his match with Bray Wyatt.  The Undertaker, who goes into WM at 21-0, represents his match with Brock Lesnar.  And, of course, Randy Orton, Batista, and Daniel Bryan represent the main event at WrestleMania 30.

Royal Rumble on the Super Nintendo was always one of my favorite console games and even though the box art wasn't all that creative, it surely holds nostalgic appeal and had to be included in this Holidaze set.  There wasn't much to it - I simply replaced classic Superstars with current, but I wanted it to look the original.  The red and white ropes, along with the black & white background, had to stay true to the original Super Nintendo game

I remember when I first heard about Raw for Sega Genesis.  My cousin called because he had just read about it in a magazine and couldn't wait to tell me that we'd soon be able to play as Diesel and Doink in a wrestling video game.  I couldn't have been any more pumped.  Then, when I finally saw a magazine myself, so many things stood out to me.  Of course, the characters were the selling point, but even at my young age I was drawn in by graphic design and I'll never forget seeing that box art for the first time.  It was so rough and rugged.  It was edgy and featured all of the Superstars we could play as in the game.  It was amazing and I couldn't wait to play it.  The game-play can't be compared to today's games, but we had a blast playing it at the time.  With this graphic design and updated version, I tried to stay true to the original.  Instead of Doink jumping, we have Kofi Kingston.  Instead of the classic Undertaker, we have today's bald Undertaker.  I love the way it came out, but it was probably the most difficult to recreate of this bunch.

As a kid, I was a huge collector of WWF Hasbro action figures.  My parents bought me every one they found and I honestly think I had every single one of them by the time I was through.  Of course, I didn't keep them carded - I played with them.  I beat the hell out of those figures, especially during Royal Rumbles, to the point where they were covered in paint worn marks and had broken arms.  I remember when my Dad asked me to keep the 1-2-3 Kid packaged for when I'm older.  He knew it'd be worth something one day.  But before he even finished his request, I had that green card ripped open and the Kid in a match.  

As I grew older, I came to appreciate the art on cards and the design that went into them.  The TMNT cards will always be my favorite, but the WWF Hasbro figures are a close second based on nostalgia alone.  The originals, as recreated above, were red, white, and blue.  But as the series' continued, the card colors changed to signify each edition.  They were great and my favorite part was the little cartoon character on the front right.  For Zack Ryder, a true toy enthusiast, I recreated the classic card.  He's a big fan of the TMNT, Real Ghostbusters, and even liked a photo of Hermey on The Holidaze Instagram account.  If that's not enough to be immortalized in early 90s glory, then I don't know what it.  WWWYKI.

Hopefully you enjoyed this edition of WWE graphics because I think it's something I'll continue in the future.  Please feel free to share these images on the internet.  Maybe we can get back on the WWE app!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cap'n Crunch - Sprinkled Donut Crunch

It's March 11th, it's absolutely beautiful outside and the snow is finally melting.  I think that's as good a reason as any to bounce back and write a new post for The Holidaze.  It's surely been a while - almost a month - and I hate when the downfalls take place.  It's common this time of year, but it aggravates me when I can't find new topics or the time to cover them.  If you follow me on Instagram @HolidazeBlog, you might have already seen today's topic posted and, surprisingly, it caught a lot of attention and increased my number of followers by more than expected.  So if you're not one of them yet, make sure you are one now!  During the "off-season," I find myself focusing more on social media and pictures than the site itself.  It's quick and easy!  Now.. Let's get into the crunch - Cap'n Crunch's Sprinkled Donut Crunch, that is!

Like many of the new products I cover and am interested in, I first discovered this on Instagram and was thrilled to find out it wasn't an elaborate hoax.  Why does new cereal intrigue me so much?  I think it's because I've never had a really bad cereal and they all bring something different to the breakfast table.  Growing up, it was all I ate.  Whether it was the early morning or a late night snack while watching Nick-at-Nite, nothing's better than a bowl of cereal and milk.  This past weekend, I was sick with a cold and didn't have an appetite for much, but cereal is something I've never not been in the mood for.  So yeah, new boxes and flavors will always attract my attention and, really, Cap'n Crunch always has something new up his sleeve to entice us with.

I knew Donut Crunch would look cool, but I didn't think it would look that awesome.  The tiny donuts, covered in rainbow sprinkles, look too good to be considered cereal.  They're also pretty big.  I was expecting them to be the size of Cheerios, but they're more like Cheerios on steroids.  I was impressed by them in every way and they were already living up to my expectations.  In terms of flavor, they're hard to describe, but there's definitely a distinct donut flavor.  They remind me plain and glazed Entenmann's donuts that come in variety boxes.  There's also a hint of birthday cake flavor thrown in that works really well.  I think we can attribute that to the sprinkles.  Overall, these little rings of Heaven are great and worth every penny.  It's your traditional Cap'n Crunch undertone covered in Donuttiness.  Not a word?  Now it is!

Before I conclude, I think this little bit of info is important for those interested in trying Sprinkled Donut Crunch.  According to various reviews I've read, especially on TheImpulsiveBuy, this new cereal is very similar to that of Sprinkle Spangles.  They were star-shaped sprinkled bits that I vaguelyyyy remember and most of my memory is sparked by Google images so I can't confirm or deny, but if you were a fan of Sprinkle Spangles, this may be the return you've been waiting for.  It's an added bonus to this limited-edition and it may be better than any premium they could have thrown in the box.

Based on my research, Cap'n Crunch has released a plethora of limited-edition flavors in the past and I'd absolutely love to give them a try if ever resurrected.  It looks like I missed out on a bunch before my time, but just look at these names - Punch Crunch, Vanilly Crunch, Polar Crunch, Choco Crunch, Deep Sea Crunch, and Volcano Crunch - whoaa!!  I remember a few, but never tried them.  I'm particularly intrigued by Fruit Punch flavored cereal, but they all sound awesome.  So if Sprinkle Spangles can come back for all of you, I'm holding out hope that a few others return for me.  In the meantime, Sprinkled Donut Crunch is a hit!

P.S.  St. Patrick's Day is less than a week away, so get ready for a few posts here and there celebrating the color green, shamrocks, leprechauns, beer, and - oh, right - my heritage :)
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