Monday, October 13, 2014

Hood's Pumpkin Spice Eggnog and JJ's Pumpkin Pie


Tonight, I'm taking a quick look at a couple of impulse buys from my last shopping trip.


First we have JJ's Pumpkin Pie. I'm thinking they should have added an asterisk after "Real Fruit Filling!", because the ingredients state that there is less than 2% of pumpkin puree actually present. In other words, if you were able to break down this pie into 100 equally sized pieces, less than two of them would contain any pumpkin at all. I guess I should have known that would be the case, what with all the random pumpkins laying around on the box. Lesson number one in fruit pie anatomy is, "The more fruit that's on the box, the less there is in the pie." Lesson number two should be to never buy a fruit pie that costs less than a dollar. These only cost $.79. So goes the lesson..


The box states that the pie is microwaveable, and it was at this point that I realized I had never microwaved one of these things before, not even the Hostess versions. Since I don't see myself eating many more fruit pies over the years, I gave it a quick nuke. 17 seconds later, and I had a plate full of steaming fruit* pie.


JJ's pies look oddly similar to Hostess' offerings, but I guess you can only have so many different shapes for pie crusts. I'm thankful the filling isn't the same shade of brownish orange that I've only ever seen in Playdoh. It makes it all the more easier to stomach. Speaking of the filling, there really isn't much in the way of pumpkin flavor at all. It was more like caramel, or butterscotch. It was actually a little hard to figure out just what the hell it tasted like. It wasn't bad, just odd. JJ certainly could have tossed some nutmeg to spice things up a bit. Ultimately, I didn't finish this one. Not because it was bad, but because it had about three days worth of fat content, and I don't feel like getting into a fistfight with heart disease quite yet.


Next up is Hood's Pumpkin Spice Eggnog. Now here we have an item that is on the other end of the flavor spectrum. While JJ's Pumpkin Pies had very little in the way of pie flavoring, Hood's eggnog was uncanny in its flavoring. By that I mean, it was like drinking a glass of pumpkin pie. My first sip actually caught me off guard. I've had flavored eggnogs before, and they're usually close enough for me to agree with the label on the box. This stuff actually had me sitting down and pondering the deeper meanings of life and the universe. It's a flavor and consistency that normally don't happen together, and it confused my mind a little bit. It has a slightly orangeish hue, but it's not as garish as the orange milk you see around this time of the year. It's just subtle enough to let you know that this isn't just any ordinary eggnog you're about to drink. As good as the eggnog is, I think its flavor works against it. I can't help but feel like I need to toss some chunks of crust in the glass so I'll have something to chew.

 So there you have it. Hood's Pumpkin Spice eggnog tastes like a carton of pie, and you should only ever buy expensive fruit pies.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

It's Halloween decoration time!

Chelsea and I started getting the house ready for Halloween last weekend. Well, mostly Chelsea, though I helped set up a few things. I enjoy decorations, but I hate decorating. Weird, right? It's the same for Christmas. I enjoy getting the tree and setting it up, but I couldn't care less about decorating the rest of the house. I just want to sit there and sip my hot chocolate and watch the lights twinkle. Same with Halloween. I just want to sit there, staring at a zombie stuck to my wall, while I sip blood from a skull chalice.


I was a little premature taking this picture, since Chelsea wasn't quite done setting stuff out. The pumpkins still need to be carved, but we prefer to wait until the week of Halloween. We don't want the little children stomping through rotten pumpkins, do we? You can see Grey, one of our cats, trying to figure out why there is a tombstone on the porch with her name on it. I find one more hairball Grey, and you'll find out.


This is a bad time of the year for tree ghouls around here. If you think fruit flies are bad, just imagine how annoying it is to have one of these guys floating around going "Woooooh!" and "Ahhhhhhh!" in your ears while you're trying to watch a movie. They don't have any sense of personal space and they leave slime stains everywhere. The smell of old ectoplasm has almost become unbearable. At least, I hope that's just ectoplasm..


The spiders get more ridiculous the closer we get to Halloween. Gone are the usual wolf spiders and orb weavers. In their place we have the Tufted Bush Spider. It sounds cute, but it's a nasty little critter. As you can see, they prefer to make their homes in your home's surrounding greenery, waiting for any inattentive children or bats to come by. This one told me he's particularly fond of bats. They're crunchy and can't get away as easily as the children. Oh, I forgot to mention they talk too? Well they do. They're rather chatty for arachnids.


Ugh, this guy again. You know how it goes. You have to bury somebody, but you're got someplace to be, so you only dig down a couple feet and toss the body in. This is a lesson in not taking the easy way out. Dig deep, and use a sturdy box, otherwise your past transgressions will keep coming back to haunt you. This guy doesn't seem smart enough or strong enough to finish clawing his way out, so I decided to leave him as is. Besides, his muffled screams only add to the ambiance.


Even Dug got in on the decorating. He hates it when people don't pay attention to him, so he reasoned people would notice him if he lit up at night. I can't really disagree; folks would certainly notice a bright orange colored dog. I do have to wonder if he's willing to spend all night next to an electrical outlet, though I highly doubt he thought that far ahead. Maybe I can rig up a battery on a cart that he can tow around.

Those are the highlights so far. There are still 3 or 4 totes full of decorations that will go up the week of Halloween, right before our somewhat annual party. Then everything will come down the next day to make way for Thanksgiving decorations. That's right, Chelsea decorates for Thanksgiving.

So, if any of you folks are going to be in Virginia Halloween weekend, you're more than welcome to come attend our little soiree. If you do stop by, please make sure you use the front door...


It's not a trap. I promise.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Batman Returns Bruce Wayne is ready for Halloween!

Today's post is about a billionaire playboy orphan egomaniac with an awesome car.



Released in 1992, Bruce Wayne was released in the Batman Returns line by Kenner. This is actually the second time this figure was produced, with the first being from the pre-sequel Dark Knight Collection. I know it may seem a bit farfetched, writing about Bruce Wayne during the Halloween Countdown, but stick around for a bit. I'll get you there.



I love the illustration of Bruce on the card. The Keaton likeness isn't too bad actually, and it looks quite a bit like him if you turn your head to the side and look at him from the corner of your eye. It's a good mix of comic and movie Bruce Waynes. My favorite part of the face is that smug look Bruce has. That's the look of a man that's a bit annoyed about seeing the Bat signal in the sky once again. He was probably kicked back with a good book and a bottle of wine, or maybe he was entertaining one of his many lady friends. He didn't even bother with going down to the Batcave. He just walked over to the closet, and pulled on his quick change armor. That's the kind of look that says, "This will only take a second baby, stay right there. Why don't you get another glass of the 1943 Chateau du Toilette?"


Most of the other Batman figures from this line were all repaints of the Super Powers version. Bruce here is one of the few that has his own unique sculpt. He's also one of the most stylish, next to the Joker, of course. Bruce is decked out in a turtleneck and a what appear to be a pair of black spandex pants. Bruce was obviously a fashion icon in the late 1980's. I love how there's a stylized version of the Batman symbol on his sweatshirt. I didn't pick it up at first, but after staring at it for a few hours, I'm positive that's what it is. I really have no idea why he would have an abstract Bat-symbol on his shirt. Did Batman somehow negotiate some sort of clothing deal?


Bruce Wayne also comes with what has to be the largest cell phone ever made. Forget a brick, that thing is a cinder block. With a phone that size, I have to imagine that it runs on a car battery. No wonder Bruce is so buff, if he has to carry that thing around all day. It also has a small click wheel on the side. I'm not sure what else to say about that. Maybe it's so you can pretend Batman is talking to the dolphins?


So Bruce looks up in the sky and sees the Bat-signal on a passing cloud. It seems Batman is needed to save the day once again. Well, it's a good thing Bruce has his quick change armor close by. All he has to do is don his mask, cape, chest piece, gauntlets and boots, and he's ready to go!


And here's Batman, all suited up and ready to thwart the next criminal plot. Sure, he looks like he's wearing Hulk hands, and one gauntlet is forever clutching a Batarang, but evil doesn't care how ridiculous you look. Also, his head doubles in size when you put the cowl on. Maybe there's a bike helmet hidden in that thing. As silly as the figure looks with the armor on, I have to admit that it feels pretty solid. The gloves in particular are actually pretty hard to put on, so they're not coming off on their own. The cape is permanently attached to the cowl, so you don't have to worry about it coming off and getting lost. It's comforting to know that I could hold him out the window on my way to work, and watch his cape flutter without having to worry that it will come off mid flight.



Like a lot of Kenner's other figures, the Batman cardbacks always showed you the other toys available within that line. This one gives you an idea of just how ridiculous some of these suits were. I always thought that Arctic Batman would have been better suited for fighting Mr. Freeze, rather than the Penguin. He even has a dome over his head, just like the icy villain. I actually had a couple of these other figures, Air Attack Batman and Deep Dive Batman. AA Bats was pretty cool with his heavily armed jet suit and cool camouflage costume, but Deep Dive Batman always irked me with his bright color scheme. Wouldn't it be better to blend in with the water, rather than stand out like a beacon? I also had the Robin figure, which was probably one of my favorites. I think it was the two-toned cape. I'm always a sucker for a figure with a cool cape. I was always puzzled by his inclusion since he wasn't actually in the movie. Then I find out he was going to be played by a Wayans brother and I realized it was probably for the best the character was cut from an already crowded flick.


When I saw the Batman Armor set on the back of the card, I had an epiphany. This isn't Bruce Wayne as a crime fighter. This is a Bruce Wayne in an alternate reality, where he's just a regular billionaire egomaniac looking to win the costume contest and score with the ladies. That explains why it looks so shoddy. Bruce might be one of the richest men in the world, but he's an awful seamstress. Now that smug look of his makes perfect sense.


"Which one of you lovely ladies wants to slide down the Bat-pole?"

Thursday, October 2, 2014

October is here! Let's eat some Planters Pumpkin Spice Almonds!

Holy crap! It's October 2nd! You know what that means, right? It means that I've been lazy the past few weeks, and this post is late. Well, there's no need for any pomp and circumstance, you all know what this month means: A plethora of junk food, scary movies, and whatever random items I can vaguely connect to the Halloween season. Having said that, let's get this month started with one of my new favorite snacks:


I don't think Planters Pumpkin Spice Almonds are new to everyone else, but they're certainly new to me. I didn't start liking almonds until later in life, which was right about the same time they started coming out in crazy flavors. I daresay that I only noticed almonds in the snack aisle because I caught a glimpse of the word "wasabi" on the can as I passed them by. Though most of the flavors are delicious, eating one when you're expecting plain old "Almond" flavor is enough to cause anyone to fall over from shock. Think of the feeling you get when you get a big sip of Pepsi when you're expecting sweet tea.


Opening the can for the first time, you're hit by an aroma reminiscent of a Fall scented candle. I'm talking one the expensive ones, too. Like, Yankee Candle expensive. The almonds are coated in a variety of spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and pumpkin powder. I've never heard of or seen pumpkin powder before, but I can only assume that it is made up of tiny, dust particle sized pumpkins. There's all kinds of gene splicing going on in food these days, I don't see why they couldn't create microscopic pumpkins. Any attempts to explain what it actually is, will be met with me violently ignoring you.

The taste is bit more subdued than some of the other flavors I've tried, and this is one variety that benefits from being savored more than immediately chewing them up. There's an initial hit of cinnamon and sugar, followed by a slight saltiness that fades into a cinnamon-y pumpkin spiciness. It's pretty complex for a snack food, and is best enjoyed small portions. Otherwise you experience some taste fatigue. Yesterday, after I ate a few handfuls, one of my co-workers commented that I smelled "spicy". I don't know if that's good or bad, but there it is.



I'm not going to say Planters went all out when they decorated the Pumpkin Spice Almond tins, but it's still a respectable effort. Pumpkins and falling leaves are about as "Fall" as you can get. It's not like you're going to expect to see this on the aisles in the middle of the spring. Once all the leaves have fallen, and the pumpkins have long since rotted away, you can bet you won't be able to find these hanging around store shelves. The tree is almost spooky enough to make this a Halloween limited edition, but there's just enough lighting to keep this from being a totally creepy scene.

Whether you love or hate the new Mr. Peanut, you have to admit he's a rather dapper fellow. I've never had much of an attachment for the character, but then again, he's never been on a cereal box, so that might be why. Maybe if Planters had included toys in their jars of nuts, I would have begged my mom to buy more of them. I kinda hoped they would have dressed him up in a costume, as a sort of nod to Halloween, but then it's hard to top being an anthropomorphic peanut in a suit coat. Here, he's just carting off a large pumpkin under his arm, and wearing a smile that either says, "I got a hell of a deal on this wonderful gourd", or "I better get out of here before the cart's proprietor returns". If he's trying to be inconspicuous though, he might want to take off the monocle and the top hat. Nobody wears those these days.

In the end, Planters Pumpkin Spice Almonds are a win for me. They're pretty expensive ($6.99 a can!), but if you're like me, you'll eat half and forget about them for a few months. In that case, one can will probably last you until December.




Thursday, September 25, 2014

They say good things come to those who wait...

I've been lazy this month, but I've found that I don't feel as motivated to blog since I'm not using social media. That's all about to change in less than a week. You see, my favorite time of the year has just arrived, and I can feel those blogging juices bubbling to the surface once again. October is going to be a busy month, a lot busier than the past two years. I'm not promising to post every day, but I'm certainly planning on filling most of this month with Fall themed snacks, toys, movies, and Halloween goodness.

This year, even my local Food Lion is on their game. I've found things I've only been able to read about, and some things that are completely new to me.









Yep, October is looking like it's going to be a fun month indeed.


Now, let's just hope I didn't just jinx myself..

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Anti-Social Experiment

"The more things change, the more they stay the same."

-Snake Plissken

Okay, so it's really a French proverb, but Escape from L.A. was the first time I'd ever heard it. When applied to socializing on the internet, it fits like a glove. I remember the days of Yahoo Messenger and AIM, when I would have buddy lists full of people I rarely talked to. Well, that's not completely true; there were a few that I talked to on a daily basis. For the most part though, they were lists of people that I only occasionally chatted with. That's not to say they didn't have their place. Without instant messaging, my college experience would have been a lot lonelier, as well as my love life. Anyway, when Myspace and later, Facebook, started gaining popularity I noticed the instant messaging crowd dying off. Chat rooms dried up, and soon, people were posting to walls instead of directly chatting with each other.

Things have sort of come full circle these days, with Facebook becoming yet another list of people we rarely speak to. We look for and connect with people we haven't talked to for years...and we still don't talk to them. Lately, I've been wondering why I should care that some folks I know went out for some dinner and dancing. If I didn't have Facebook, I never would have known about it, and I wouldn't have cared. Point of fact, I know about it now, and I still don't care. We post about everything we do and everywhere we go, and why? So people will like it?

I'm certainly guilty of all these things, so starting tomorrow, Monday, September 15th, I'm going a month without social networking. I was actually inspired to try this by a friend of mine, Melanie Parker. I still plan on blogging though, since I don't feel like that is a waste of time. When I finish looking at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the last time tonight, I'll be signing out of all of them for the next month. Checking all those things throughout the day has become second nature for me, and frankly, I don't like that. Who knows, after a month without, I may decide never to go back. Or, I'll go insane. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

For those of you that want to check in or keep in touch off the social networks, I can always be reached through the comments here, or at stuntzombie@gmail.com. It might take me a day or so, but I always try to get back to people. Of course, others are welcome to take part in my Anti-Social Experiment as well, though I doubt most folks will know about it, since we won't be posting on each others' electronic walls for the next 30 days. Either way, I invite you all to join me in severing the electronic tether, if only for a month.

Just think of it as a reboot for your offline life.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Random picture post Summer edition.

One of the great things about the Eastern Shore in the summertime, there is no shortage of festivals happening around here. Even if it isn't listed in the newspaper, there's a safe bet that there's something going on involving food, music, and booze. Chelsea and I didn't make it to all the events this year, but we had a great time at the few that we attended.

Back in June, we made it to the Tall Ships Festival in Cape Charles. It's a yearly event, where historical sailing vessels dock in the harbors and allow people to take tours. Unfortunately, the two that showed up this year wanted about $45 a piece to take a look around. In the end, I was only able to grab a few shots of the ships before we went back to eating.






Every year, the Wachapreague Volunteer Fire Department sets up and runs a carnival in, well, Wachapreague. This year it ran from June 18th to July 12th, and it helps them raise funds for new equipment and operations. The Wachapreague Carnival used to be a regular summer destination when I was growing up. My cousin and I would spend hours riding the rides, and blowing our money on the somewhat shady games. Now, I mainly go for the food, since it's one of the only times of the year that I'll be able to enjoy a fried soft crab sandwich. 


There's my sammich in all it's glory. Soft crabs are definitely an acquired taste, and I can see how most folks wouldn't like them. It blows my mind that I've liked these things since childhood, since you're basically eating a whole crab. I know adults that would rather starve than put one of these in their face. Maybe it's the legs. It can be a little hard getting over the legs.

The fries were pretty good this year, though I always find it nearly impossible to finish them. This was a small, and Chelsea and I both gave up halfway through. It wasn't until I got up to toss them out, that I discovered the vinegar had soaked through the container and the paper, and into my jeans. I got to walk around the rest of the night looking like I had a very strange "accident".


I've never actually ridden the Spider. I have problems with rides that go in too many directions at once, so I tend to keep my butt off of them. I think it's best that I don't do my impression of a sprinkler, and shower the crowds with my recently eaten soft crabs.


The ferris wheel is still one of my favorite rides there. It used to be because it was one of the few rides that didn't make me nauseous. Now I appreciate it for the view it provides. It also allows me to escape the oppressive heat of the crowds, and enjoy the nice cool breeze blowing off the ocean.


Here's a shot of the carnival from one of the several parking areas. It's funny how much bigger it used to seem when I was growing up. I even remember getting lost a couple of times. Now, the whole area just seems cramped and overcrowded. I guess that's what happens when you get bigger; everything else looks smaller.


August 9th found Chelsea and I attending the Eastern Shore's Own Craft Beer and Music Festival. This took place in the lovely town of Belle Haven, next to the ESO Arts Center. This is only the second year they've had it, but if the turnout was any indication, it is going to continue to be an annual event. It helps to raise money for the ESO, which holds classes for everything from dancing to watercolor.


You get 10 different tastings for your admission price. There was a rather large selection of microbreweries to choose from, so you had to pick and choose which ones you wanted to try. Near the end of the evening, however, they stopped marking our wristbands. So, I ended up with a few extra tastings before the day was over.


Here's Chelsea modeling the mugs and the jugs.


I love these little mugs, if only because they make me feel like a giant. I like to use mine when I feel like stomping on a village.


The last even we went to this August, was the Church Creek Wine Club meet and greet. This is a shot of Chatham, the main house on the vineyard property. I've know the owners for a long time, and I actually worked inside Chatham, helping with the restoration. Once that was completed, I moved outside and helped Jon Wehner, owner of Church Creek Wines and Chatham Vineyards, start building what has become one of the best vineyards in the state. This event was sort of a "thank you" to the folks that joined their wine club. It was a great opportunity to meet some of the other members, and to try some wines that will never be available to the public.


Here's another shot from behind the house, this time over looking Church Creek. This is where Southeast Expeditions lands when they take people on their kayaking and wine tasting tour. It's also where we're planning on taking some of the pictures on our wedding day.


Why does it seem like there's almost always alcohol present in our photos? Hmm..


Here's a shot of the sitting room in Chatham. I wish you could have seen what this place looked like 16 years ago, because you'd never believe that it would look like this today. Every room is painted based on samples taken from the walls and woodwork.For the most part, it looks just like it would have back in 1818. Depending on your tastes, that may be a good thing or a bad thing.


Whenever Chelsea sees a piano, she can't help but sit down and give it a play. It's a shame she didn't discover it sooner, she could have provided some light music for the evening. 



August also saw the release of what has become my favorite comic book movie. I actually went into this movie knowing very little about the Guardians. I knew there was a raccoon and a sentient tree, but that's about it. It had the usual comic book movie plot issues, but they were easy to overlook because the movie was just....so...damn...fun. It also has the best soundtrack I've heard in ages. It's the first movie in a long time that I would be willing to go see in theaters again. That's about the best endorsement I can give any film. 

September is going to be another light month as far as posts go, but that's only because I'm trying to get some stuff together for October. Things haven't worked out for the past couple of Halloweens, so I'm hoping this year will be the one where everything goes as planned. Thanks to Eric, I already have an idea for one post this season, though I'm still trying to decide if it should be a video or a written post. A video post would probably work better, but it could go so very, very wrong. I guess we'll find out in October, won't we? 



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