Tuesday, April 15, 2014

We've Only Got 199 Days Left!

For your average citizen today is just another Tuesday. You'll get up. Go to work. Eat lunch. Come home. Have supper, and maybe catch a movie on Netflix. Tomorrow you'll do it all over again.

Thankfully I am anything but average.

You see for me this specific Tuesday is extra special. Today is the day in which we cross a very important threshold in the search for The Great Pumpkin.

As of Tuesday, April 15th there is exactly 199 days left until this years Halloween!!!

At first glance that must seem like an awful lot of days but for those of us who choose Halloween as a lifestyle and not just a thing that happens once a year, it is honestly the time in which most of us start preparations for this years festivities.

Festivities that I fully plan on keeping you guys involved with over the course of this years Summer Season here at The Astro Lounge.

199 is also the magical number in which, and I know this sounds absolutely crazy to even imagine, but I kind of start keeping my eyes open for seasonal goods to hit stores.

I don't mean today and I don't mean tomorrow... but coming soon if you know where to look you'll be surprised how early fall colors start showing. Despite the fact that summer hasn't even officially arrived.


While we all wait diligently for the start of the Halloween Season to officially arrive here are a few treats from previous years Countdowns that I thought you all might enjoy:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

How I Found Christmas (& Halloween!) Candy in April!

In case you've not noticed it the holidays never really seem to end here at The Astro Lounge. That is because no matter the time of year my heart is never to far removed from them.

So while I was out shopping the other day, not only did I end up with three Hotwheels DeLorean DMC-12 cars I also managed to grab ahold five Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark Chocolate Bars and a few odds and ends Halloween decorations somehow still for sale out in the wild.

As I mentioned in yesterdays post, when I am out and about I always like looking for leftover pieces of holiday material. I have a working theory that at any given time, you can always find something seasonal for sale.

So with this theory in mind I set out to see what I could find. And while most stores came up short I was able to snag a couple fun items in two of the most unlikely places.

Wal-Mart and Target!

The "big two" of retail and the two establishments that are generally the least likely of places to find out of season goods. Nine times out of ten if you want a little slice of Halloween or Christmas when its neither of those seasons, you track down some old ragtag pharmacy or Mom & Pop store that's tucked way off the beaten path.

2014 Halloween Candy!
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So clearly lady luck was on my side when I unearthed this package of Vanilla Yogurt Raisins from Targets hallowed grounds. Raisins straight out of October and sporting Halloweens unholy colors.

Moderately festive looking raisins are not something that I generally would give two shits about, Halloween package or not. If this was the proper time of year I doubt I'd even cover them. Not with all the other sights and sounds of the season vying for my attention.

But right here and right now... with nothing else currently on the market sporting PUMPKINS and GHOSTS, this is like something straight out of another world. A strange alternative universe in which it is Halloween year round and raisins are always sold in packages featuring The Great Pumpkin.

Good grief do I ever wish I could vacation in that destination all summer long!

Glade Pumpkin Spice Candle!
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Off over in Wal-Mart I was able to find even more Halloween decorations. Not quite as fantastic as pumpkin decorated raisins but snagging this Halloween Wall Banner for .25 cents seemed like a good enough deal. Even if I have no specific use for it in mind.

I also found this Glade Pumpkin Spice candle tucked away in the clearance section. I can already envision late summer nights spent burning this one with Friday the 13th: The Series playing off in the background, setting the mood while I hammer out the details of this years Halloween Countdown!

2014 Christmas Candy!
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Here they are! The reason why I started this entire adventure in the first place, Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark Chocolate! For reasons that I cannot really explain I was suddenly hit with the urge for some peppermint chocolate.

The problem of course being late March early April is not the greatest of time to track down something predominantly sold only during the winter months.

So I hit, no exaggeration, seven different stores before finally finding some tucked away in a 'sort of clearance' section of food products at Wal-Mart.

To say I used up every single trick that I've learned over the years for finding out of season goods is a bit of an understatement. Because not only did I do that, I took towards social media and flat out asked if anyone had seen some for sale recently (all the more reason why you should follow me on Twitter @AstroLounge101)

And now I feel set to start making it through the early push of the 2014 Summer Season. I'll still keep up the sporadic hunt for The Holidays throughout the year... and just when that well of goods is seemingly dry, I've no doubt that the holiday gods of retail will usher in something festive an new earlier than ever this year!

Monday, March 31, 2014

My Hotwheels DeLorean DMC-12 Review!

This is the story of how I ended up with three DeLorean Hot Wheels cars and five entirely out of season Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark chocolate bars over the course of a single day.

I was out last week doing a bit of shopping and not-so-secretly hunting in the back corners of every store for remnants of the Christmas Season. Of which I ended up finding a surprisingly large amount of crap tucked away in the back corner of a rouge Hallmark store.

More on that in a minute.

Hotwheels Back to the Future
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The real star of today's show are these red Hotwheels DeLorean DMC-12's that I picked up at Wal-Mart! I am a huge DeLorean enthusiast, and while that love stems from obvious places it goes much deeper than Mr. Fusion replicas. I actually legitimately love the real DMC-12 and not just the one Marty McFly drove around in the movies.

I've known about the Hotwheels DeLorean for quite a while now, and while I could have very easily purchased one off from Amazon... the thrill is in the hunt. I'd rather find one out in the wild, even if it takes six months to do so.

Seriously, I been looking for this car since around Thanksgiving time. Digging through every rack in every store and always coming up short. Until now. Near the back of the Wal-Mart that I shop at is this big isle of clearance toys. Stuff leftover from the Holidays, no doubt.

In it was a big floor fixture with four different bins overflowing with Hotwheels cars. I didn't really feel like rummaging around in it but as I walked by couldn't help but flip over one car to see what was hiding  under.

What are the chances that the very first package I touched just so happened to be a red DeLorean DMC-12! The very same car that I've spent so long trying to find. Finally sitting right in front of me.

I danced a small jig in the middle of the isle with excitement.

Hotwheels Back to the Future
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Hotwheels released this car in two different variations, red and the traditional silver. I am really after the silver DeLorean but the red car was on my mental list of stuff to eventually find too. And I was not going to pass up the opportunity to finally own one. Even if it was the lesser of the two color options.

It was at this point in my journey that I turned into "that guy" standing around digging through a pile of Hotwheels cars. Because clearly if they had a red DeLorean than a silver DeLorean must exist someplace else within this pile.

Sadly it did not.

I did however keep finding red ones. After looking for seemingly forever for this one specific car, I kept finding them here. I'd move a few cars around and suddenly find another. Then another. And another. Until I had a stack of seven of the bastards.

Eventually I settled upon purchasing three of them. Because fuck logic in situations such as these!

A few things about this car drive me nuts. For starters DeLorean's never came  factory red. Or any color for that matter. Every car came manufactured with the DeLorean's iconic stainless steel finish. You could paint them if you wanted, and some folks have. But they never actually came from DMC that way.

Hotwheels Back to the Future
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Secondly, I've never seen a DeLorean with racing stripes along its side. Let alone the strange one Hotwheels chose to put on the hood. I get that Hotwheels tends to gussy up the look of all its cars to make them more appealing for children, but dorky looking racing stripes have no business being on a DMC-12 DeLorean like this!

I am also not a fan of the big chromed out wheels they stuck on it but alas at least those slightly resemble the look of factory DeLorean rims. Just in a much larger and shinier fashion.

What I have the most problems with is how as soon as its taken out of the package, its tough to tell what kind of car this even is. It doesn't really look like a proper DeLorean DMC-12. Just a few cool little details sprinkled over top the vague outline of the car, like the gas flap compartment on the hood and the overall low profile and shape of the car.

Everything else seems like it was pieced together out of extra bits and parts that Hotwheels already had laying around until they got something that looked similar to a DeLorean, than simply called it close enough and sent it into production.

If I sound like I am being overly critical of a .97 cent replica of a car most people probably only vaguely recognize, it's because I am. But only because I love the real automobile so much that I hate seeing it misrepresented. In any form.

Overall, I still recommend picking it up. If you are a DeLorean collector like myself it doesn't take much convincing to purchase anything with the DMC logo on it. Let alone a Hotwheels replica. It's close enough to looking like the actual car that unless you know the real deal inside out, most people will recognize it as the car from Back to the Future. Even if this specific version is red!

Now about those chocolate bars. This post turned out to be considerably longer than I thought. So I'll save the second half of this story for later on in the week.

I hope you guys are ready for out of season peppermint chocolate bars. Because it was a long and strange journey that lead me to finding a box of them!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Lay's Chicken & Waffle Flavored Chips!

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Despite the thirty degree, raining and still sometimes snowy weather that is occupying most of the Midwest... summer is in fact coming. Eventually. I know this because the Summer Season is the only time of year in which something as outrageous as Lay's Chicken & Waffle Flavored Chips could ever hit the market.

Take that Santa Claus!

For reasons that I cannot possibly fathom these potato chips exist. And while not particularly good... this is totally one of those things that you absolutely must track down and try for yourself.

Strangely reminiscent of those old Jones Soda Holiday Packs, you know the ones that sold bottles of soda flavored like Mashed Potatoes and Green Bean Casserole. It's basically that exact same concept, applied to chip form.

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I do not buy into the notion that any of the brain-trust at Lay's actually believe this is legitimately a good idea. Chicken & Waffle chips exist simply because they can and because they are are so friggin' strange of a concept that you basically have to purchase a bag.

Each chip has this strange sort of sickly color to them. Darker and blotchier than you'd expect with far more crunch than I typically associate with Lay's. This combination almost reminds me of leaving a bowl of traditional potato chips out to fester in the sun for twelve hours on a hot, humid picnic in July.

And the smell is something else entirely, too. It's maple syrup... but not really. I don't even begin to know how to properly describe what they smell like but I'd imagine if you gave a gigantic super computer all the ingredients to make up "maple syrup" and told it to come up with a flavor, this would be the end result.

It has this weird artificial quality to it that is so tough to pinpoint. And I don't know where exactly the chicken flavor fits into this equation but I've no doubt that occasionally while eating them, you stumble into a bit of chip that tastes like chicken.

Or some sort of artificial chicken substitute covered in artificial maple syrup.

And yet they are strangely munchable. I've had them sitting on a plate next to me this entire time and despite the fact that I don't need to eat all of them... I keep tossing one down every so often.

Lay's Chicken & Waffle Flavored Chips defy all logic. They look weird. Taste pretty bad. And are not something I ever want to eat again, but I still highly recommend tracking a bag down and experiencing this bizarre concoction for yourself!

Friday, March 14, 2014

M.A.R.S. Heroes Revisited!

Score! I've finally found the figure I was looking for! It only took a little over a year worth of hunting, but FROSTY from the M.A.R.S. Heroes set is finally in my possession.

And in case you are in need of a refresher, M.A.R.S. Heroes is a line of generic Transformers like robots that feature removable body parts, allowing you to mix and match bits and pieces to craft your own creations.

Originally I wrote about them as part of the 2012 Christmas Countdown and due to the slightly obscure nature of the product, I figured that would be the first and only time I would ever write about them.

Pacific Rim Robots
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Turns out our paths would cross once again. And this time I'd end up with the one figure in the series that I really wanted, Frosty. The eight year old in me could not be happier. Finding the chaser figure in any series is a big deal. Even if that series is a kind of crappy Transformers knockoff line!

As I stated in my recent review of Hasbro's Red Skull figure, some toys are best left in the blister package. Not only does it increase the value of the figure, but more often than not they tend to look better displayed that way.

Not these guys. Fuck that package. M.A.R.S. Heroes are clearly meant to be opened. Meant to be played with. Even if that inevitably means losing all of the accessories and half the body pieces within a week... so be it. That is the price you must pay to see these guys live up to there fullest potential.

Pacific Rim Robots
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Here is the star of the show and clear cut leader of the pack, Frosty. To the immediate left is Darkbeat and off over to the right is Blaster. All white figures are a tough thing to pull off, especially lower end ones. If its not done just right it'll simply look like an unpainted mess.

Through either blind luck or pure determination the designers of this set managed to pull off the white paint scheme. And in the process actually crafted something pretty cool.

It may be tough to tell from that specific photo but Frosty and all the other robots actually have a lot of minor detail carved into them. And they are all highly flexible too.

Yea, you'll sometimes have issues with getting a specific socket to stay connected and occasionally a foot will fall off. But ultimately the price is so low I honestly cannot fault any of the figures.

Pacific Rim Robots
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Here is the full set of M.A.R.S. Heroes toys. Have to wonder how many actually own all six of them? I somehow doubt to many people are M.A.R.S. Heroes competitions... which is actually a bit of a shame.

Standing together in one big hero pose like that totally reinforces my beliefs that this set is freaking outstanding! It is literally amazing that they are so cheaply made and yet every figure is just oozing with personality and flavor.

I really just dig the fact that every robot is different from one another. This one is green. That one is blue. Another is white. And none of them look like one another yet everything is cohesive enough that when standing side by side they all totally come from the same universe. It's outstanding that some set basically nobody has ever heard of managed to hit all the right notes like that!

And while I still don't know how well they'd stand up to a ten year old's toy box, I do know that I will proudly display these on a shelf. Because they are far to awesome to hide away in a plastic tub someplace!