Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Management Recommends: Christmas Extravaganza!

Happy Christmas again! Good people! Time is short for me to talk about Christmas stuff! As you know, a recent virus problem really set me back this month! So, tonight, as I finish baking that last batch of Christmas cookies (usually stay up all night doing that on Christmas Eve, but I'm getting a jump on it this year), I'm gonna try to talk about as much Christmas stuff as I can think of that doesn't require its own post entirely, including the Brian Setzer Christmas Rocks Extravaganza concert, which I saw here in Austin earlier this month! 

First though, let's talk about traditional Christmas treats! Beyond the usual pies and cookies, I mean. Yep, I bake a heaping pile of chocolate chip and cookie cutter sugar cookies every year, and a big Christmas cake, and we have our holiday pies and chocolate candies too, but here are a few other treats that often turn up at our place around Christmas that you might wanna try yourself.

Let's start with Little Debbie's Christmas Tree Cakes!

Yep, these are family faves, much like their Easter Basket Cakes around that time of year. We're not ones to have stuff like this around all the time (believe it or not), but on those two holidays I can get very grumpy if I miss 'em! With a tall glass of cold milk, these things are delicious! And the pictures on the box sure aren't false advertising either!


Next, the classic holiday popcorn tin!

This became a tradition for us back in the 80's, when I was still a little kid. I have fond memories of discovering "A Christmas Story" for the first time on one particularly interesting holiday season while munching on some of this oft-stale deliciousness. My apologies on forgetting to take a photo of the actual product inside. I didn't realize I might be including it in an article later. Basically, inside the delightfully decorated tin can (which has gotten smaller over the years) that retails around 6 dollars, give or take, are three types of flavored popcorn: cheddar, butter, and caramel. The cheddar used to be an orange color. Now it's that modern, white cheddar. It's still good stuff, if a bit chewy sometimes, ha, but the can is usually what grabs me. I always say I'm going to stop getting these, but they always lure me in with something new! Look at this one! It's from the new Mickey Mouse cartoon show! I HAD to get it! I AM trying to get rid of some of my older ones right now though. But they really are quite useful for storing holiday decorations, cookie cutters, gift bows, ornaments, etc... I just have been opting for large, plastic storage boxes lately for most of that stuff. I do use these tins for a few things still though.

And, finally for this year, my long overdue review of two holiday cereals I picked up earlier this month: Holiday Sprinkles Cookie Crisp and Christmas Crunch!

We'll start with Holiday Sprinkles Cookie Crisp, and I promise that I will not show favoritism just because the mascot for Cookie Crisp is a wolf these days, Chip the Wolf by name, although I do LOVE that. There must be a werewolf in charge of General Mills these days, or someone related to one, because not only did they bring back Fruit Brute (sorta) the Halloween before last, but they also had the insight to know we wolves are real cookie monsters!

Yep, I've seen a lot of Cookie Crisp mascots come and go. I remember a wizard from when I was a kid, before the cop and robber characters and the crook's bulldog. But, I hope Chip is here to stay! Anyway, as for this sugar cookie flavored version of the Cookie Crisp cereal, I had never seen this one before, so I was intrigued when I spotted it on Target store shelves in the cereal aisle. I had to try a box! I have long been a Cookie Crisp fan, though I'll admit that it does not taste exactly like it used to, and I think it's always been more like my 6th or 7th favorite cereal rather than in the top three or something. Still, I did grow up loving it. And, though a quick web search proves there have been other varieties around, including this Sprinkles variety in a non-Holiday version, the only flavors of Cookie Crisp I've ever seen before this were the regular version and the vanilla version (which I haven't seen for years). As for Holiday versions of the cereal, I saw other versions on my web search, but I don't remember ever seeing this in stores before. So, like I said, I was intrigued. I bought it and poured a bowl, and I took pictures of the process. Unfortunately, those pics were lost to the virus attack earlier this month. Luckily, I did still have this Instagram collage of them, so here we go! Holiday Sprinkles Cookie Crisp!

So, how did it fair? Honestly, sorry to say that I was not impressed. Not only was it far less festive than my other box of holiday themed cereal this year, but it was extremely bland tasting. It wasn't terrible dry, but add milk and it's even less tasty. Completely unspectacular and definitely not worth the calories. Stick with real Christmas cookies, Christmas Crunch for your cereal (which I'm about to discuss), and classic Cookie Crisp when you want to support Chip the Wolf and the idea of cookies as cereal. 

Now, as for that aforementioned Christmas Crunch...



Admittedly, this wasn't my first time eating Christmas Crunch. As you probably already know, if you're a fan of Cap'n Crunch, and especially Crunch Berries, you'll enjoy this. It's delicious! It also features Christmas shapes! I thought those might be painful to eat, pine trees, stars, etc..., but no, they were fine. I swear though, I do not remember the shapes before, but I guess they've been around a long time and I just drew a blank on that one. Anyway, A+ holiday cereal I highly recommend!

And, before I move on from sugary cereals to other subjects tonight, I did spy one other holiday themed cereal this year that I DID NOT happen to purchase. I saw this one rather late, and I'm not really super into the cereal it's a spin-off of, though I know someone who LOVES it...

Yep, from the makers of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, there's Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch. I can't imagine it's all that special, but like I said, I didn't try it. My opinion of the original Cinnamon Toast Crunch is that it's okay as a dry cereal, but it's nasty once it gets soggy, which doesn't take long. So, I wasn't too inspired to try this. I have no idea how long Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch has been around, or if this is the first year, but it's the first time I've ever seen it.

Moving on!

My apologies for how blurry my Christmas Tree photos right are. But they'll have to suffice for now. If you follow my Instagram, you probably know that my younger sis and I (we currently share an apartment here in Austin) did a 1960's themed Christmas tree this year. I collect Hallmark (and sometimes other) ornaments, and I have so many (and her small collection has been growing lately too) that it's easier to decide what goes up every year by giving the tree a theme. Decades are always good ones. The only irritating part is knowing that I have at least one more big box of ornaments back at my mom's that I still need to pick up that is sure to have more ornaments perfect for the given theme each year. Still, I had plenty of 60's ornaments on hand. You can make out a few in the photo below, Space Ghost and Frosty the Snowman for example...

I've posted many individual photos of many of this year's ornaments on Instagram, and I may post more later. Below is a small sample. Follow me on Instagram to see more.




Would really love to do an 80's themed tree in the near future, but there are so many ornaments out this year and from the past few years I really need to acquire first! I'm sure I'll get a few as presents soon, but not nearly all the ones I want for that particular tree. I still gotta get Lion-O from Thundercats, for example, and Sloth from Goonies, who's in stores now!

Speaking of holiday decorations, I also went ahead and switched out my Toy Story characters atop my Disney DVD shelf this month for more festive ones. Here's my Instagram comparison below of the non-holiday display I have and the current, holiday version...

That reminds me, I still need to get that Lotso from the Toy Story Collection line, as well as the more recent Mr. Pricklepants, and someday, that old Utility Belt Buzz, if he's still out there. That one I'd probably keep in the box. Maybe Lotso as well. I was going to do a holiday write-up of all the current toys I'm on the hunt for, mainly specific 6 and 7 inch action figures, but I may not get that in before Christmas. Then again, ya never know.

 Jeez, the clock is ticking faster than I thought, guys! I am taking breaks from writing this to put in, take out, and decorate Christmas cookies, and that's been very time consuming, so I'm going to talk about one more thing, and then say, "To-be-continued", I hope tomorrow, with more holiday talk... But, I did promise to talk about the Brian Setzer Christmas concert I recently attended, so I think I'll end things with that tonight.

Well, there are the deets in the image above. Austin City Limits presented Brian Setzer Orchestra Christmas Rocks Extravaganza 12 days ago, and my sister acquired tickets for myself and our visiting mom, and we had a helluva good time. Ya know, I'm mainly a movie guy, but throughout my life, there have been a very small few names in music that I've been into enough to consider myself a fan. I've gotten to see a few of them live, and this one definitely belongs on that list. As a small kid, I was a fan of the Stray Cats, and when Setzer made a big comeback in the late 90's with The Brian Setzer Orchestra and their big band swing tune, "Jump Jive an' Wail", I was a big fan then too. The big, annual Christmas show (no idea if it comes to Austin every year, but I intend to make it a regular tradition if it does) is like the ultimate concert for me! Full of Setzer's classic Rockabilly and Big Band Swing, plus Blues and even some other stuff, not only in the form of Christmas music, but including all of Setzer's big non-Christmas hits as well, it is just a fantastic show! And the Moody Theater was an incredible place to watch it. It is a very small, intimate theater. We were in the front, almost center spot in the balcony, and man, it seemed like we were really close! Fantastic view for this awesome show! I never thought I'd be sitting there watching Brian Setzer perform "Stray Cat Strut" live, but it happened! And "Jump Jive an' Wail", AND a ton of Christmas tunes (and I happen to be a nut for Christmas music), plus tons of other stuff! He is yet another amazing performer I've had the pleasure of seeing this year. If you get the chance to catch him live, don't miss it, but I particularly recommend seeing one of his big Christmas Extravaganzas! I own a couple of his Christmas CDs myself, plus the DVD of an earlier version of this concert, so I was pretty jazzed up for this, and it did not disappoint! Even the opening act (The Record Company) was fantastic! Here are some pics and videos from the evening! Enjoy! There's not much else I can say, as it was simply a wonderful Christmas show that I truly hope to catch again and again! 





That's it for now, guys! Hopefully, I'll have time to write a bit more tomorrow! Merry Christmas!

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