The Greatest Christmas Presents Ever, Chapter 4!

It’s the scariest time of year. The time of year when we, the Christmas lovers, become lulled into that familiar and false sense of security.

“Oh, it’s barely mid-December, there’s still plenty of time left.”

Okay, but that “plenty of time” sure has a habit of feeling like two seconds. Make the mistake of blinking, and Christmas will already be over.

If you’ve been going about your Christmasing in a lazy way, it’s time to pick up the pace. Buy your gifts, watch your classics, and light at least one hideously overpowering pine-scented candle. If you don’t do it now, you might have to wait until 2012. That’s risky business. Remember what the Mayans said.

Taking my own advice, I noticed that I still have three more chapters in The Greatest Christmas Presents Ever series to get through. If I don’t want to be singing Santa’s praises in January (and I don’t), I better open the rest of these old ratty toys soon.

Let’s start now!

This is one of the big ones. Maybe the biggest.

If nothing else, it’s certainly the oldest. I received it on Christmas Eve in 1983, which would’ve made me just slightly under five-years-old.

I know, I know. You’ll never believe that I remember something from when I was that young, that long ago. I swear, I do. It’s the only thing I remember from that Christmas, but I swear, I do.

It was Christmas Eve. The big party at our house. Thirty people and thirty courses. As usual, my parents’ bedroom had been repurposed as the “coat room,” and what seemed like 500 jackets were piled on their bed.

I was drawn to Mount Coat in the same way kids can’t resist freshly raked piles of leaves. But this was even better. Instead of dirty wet leaves, I was swimming through fake fur and nylon. Just absolute glory.

Somewhere in that pile, I felt something. Something way too hard and bulky to be anyone’s jacket. Call it a sixth sense, but I knew it was going to be one of my presents. Since I was four-years-old, and Christmas was all about me, there could be no other explanation.

Under all of the coats, there it was. Unwrapped and still in a shopping bag.

I couldn’t have known it at the time, but I’d go on to value it as one of the greatest Christmas presents I ever received, even over 25 years later.

Get ready. Get set. Bo!

Shuda. Continue reading

Posted in 2011 Christmas Season, General | 79 Comments

Holiday Toaster Strudel!

I love scoping out the supermarkets at Christmastime. I shouldn’t admit it, but that’s one of my favorite pastimes of the entire year.

You just never know when the makers of an everyday foodstuff will see fit to redress their wares in red and green. I’ve learned to take nothing for granted. Most supermarkets have a “holiday aisle,” but you can’t end the search there. Use Christmas as an opportunity to visit the aisles you normally never do. Hell, I’ve even spotted a little Christmas by the light bulbs.

Proof: Last night, I found the greatest Toaster Strudel ever, hidden so deep within Stop & Shop’s frozen section that you’d swear they didn’t actually want to sell it.

I’ve never purchased or even eaten Toaster Strudel in my life. It hasn’t been a conscious decision: Our paths just never seemed to cross. Point is, when you’re on a 32 year hot streak of total unfamiliarity with Toaster Strudel, you’re not going to mess it up unless you have a very good reason.

And boy, this was a very good reason.

From Pillsbury, it’s limited edition Cream Cheese & Strawberry Toaster Strudel, with an added bonus that has brought me perilously close to exploding into a storm of heart-shaped confetti.

This strudel. Comes with. Green. Holiday. Icing.

If you consider yourself a Christmas lover, you better be excited. All of the storied Christmas lovers are. Me, Bing, Bethany – each of us is overjoyed. There are only two things that can make Kevin McCallister do his hands-on-the-face super scream: After shave, and Toaster Strudel with green holiday icing. Continue reading

Posted in 2011 Christmas Season, General | 82 Comments

The Kryptonite Crazy Box.

I’m taking a break from Christmas today – both on the site and in real life.

See, my “office” (a spare bedroom) is in shambles and has been for years. I’m going to tell you that story in full, but not today. Just know that it involves severe confessions that I would never share if I wasn’t sure that the post would be epic.

My office has become a room that we simply cannot walk into. During this time, I’ve commandeered various other spots in our apartment as my “work station,” which is ideal for no one.

Well, we finally decided to take care of business, and the slow, exhausting process of cleaning out my office has begun.

Given that whole situation, we’ve been extra critical about the rest of our apartment. We have a decent amount of space, but it’s far from limitless, and when the people living in it tend to collect every damn thing in the universe, push comes to shove very quickly.

Don’t get me wrong: If you’re a normal human being, our place looks ridiculous. I’ve got a seven foot Jason Voorhees in my living room, and enough moai statues to make me appear anything but Catholic. Still, given our inclinations, it’s downright sparse.

Over the last few years, I’ve really lost my zeal for hoarding bullshit. As I’ve written before, the stuff you see on X-E nowadays is almost universally purchased because of X-E, and more often than not, I just chuck the stuff as soon as the articles are posted.

But old habits die hard, and even when I’m trying to be on my best behavior, there are still glimpses of the hoarding monkey I was born to be.

Case in point: The Kryptonite Crazy Box.

In 2003, I wrote a filthy tribute to Superman’s Kryptonite Rocks, which were crosses between pet rocks and, uh, kryptonite. Sometime after that, I actually managed to find one of the originals, still in its awesome little box. (Little, yes, but still much larger than it needed to be – you could fit ten of Superman’s rocks in there, easily.)

For years, that box has sat on a DVD shelf in our living room. For exactly as long, I’ve been sneaking small things that I really should’ve thrown away into it. It’s become my crypt for crap that Ms. X surely would’ve tossed on one of her many frustrated bouts of cleaning. Fortunately for me, she never thought to check the Kryptonite box.

Over the past few months especially, as we’ve grown even more critical of what we’ll allow in our apartment, I’ve come to rely on this box in a big way. The stack of shit kept getting taller and taller, finally outgrowing the box. It got the point where I couldn’t even remember half of what I’d put in there to begin with.

Well, in the spirit of growing up and moving on and being something more closely resembling human, today, I’m going to break the seal. The bright side is, I should get a pretty good post out of this.

It’s time to find out exactly what’s been hiding inside my Kryptonite Crazy Box.

Actually, once I poured the contents out and got a good look at the stuff, I realized that I’d never be able to list everything. There was simply too much in there. (And, frankly, I’m not sure the world needs to hear about random coins, or tiny plastic action figure guns.) Instead, we’ll focus on the highlights.

I have no idea what compelled me to put these precise items in the box. There’s no rhyme or reason. Some of it is junk I’ve written about, but most of it is just…well, junk. Of the dozens of things in there, there are only 3 or 4 that were truly were saving.

To fully appreciate the contents, you have to understand just how much nonsense I’ve accumulated through the years. It is absolutely legendary.

I’ll put it this way: Losing my job is no huge concern, because in a pinch, I could eBay my ass off for a solid five years.

With this world of bull surrounding my every moment at home, it’s amazing that this was the crud I deemed “box worthy.”

Here we go! Continue reading

Posted in 2011 Christmas Season, General | 72 Comments

Holiday Mallow Madness!

You have my personal guarantee. By the end of this post, you will be hungry enough to eat a Peruvian giant yellow leg centipede.

Fools. I’d like to see you try.

Here’s the situation.

Kraft has unleashed enough holiday marshmallows to make it clear that they’re seeking penance for mortal sins. It’s even better than the stunt they pulled during Halloween. No matter how hard Dracula tries, he’ll never be as comfortable in a pile of spongy candy as Santa Claus. This is why Vlad rhymes with sad.

I dare say that it didn’t really feel like Christmastime until tonight, when I set an hour aside for a psychopathic holiday mallow photo shoot. As Bruce warned me to watch out and avoid crying, there I was, practically enveloped by four metric tons of fun-shaped marshmallows. It was glorious. Had I been drinking sherry from a fancy glass, someone seriously should’ve painted me.

I found three distinctly Christmassy types of marshmallows, and best of all, Kraft listed goofy recipes for each on the backs of the bags. Hey, if they could go through the trouble of thinking those recipes up, the least I could do was melt a little butter and get my hands dirty. Dirtier.

So, yes, in addition to showing you the marshmallows, I’ll also demonstrate what you can make with them. I don’t mind telling you that I’ve never devoted so much of my day to marshmallows before. I feel like I have a career in marshmallows. It feels fat. Continue reading

Posted in 2011 Christmas Season, General | 85 Comments

Blogs of Christmas Past.

One of the sad byproducts of having such an elephantine blog archive is that nobody bothers looking at it.

I don’t blame you. The X-E blog went live in 2002, and save for design changes and a migration to WordPress, it really hasn’t changed much since Day 1. That means no convenient tags, and only a brief flirtation with categories. Even if you know exactly what you’re looking for, it takes work to get there. Maybe I should do something about that?

In the interim, I’d like to draw attention to some of my favorite holiday-themed posts from years past.

First, some notes:

1. Even back during the blog’s 2002 debut, I was fucking up the Advent Calendar and hearing shit about it.

2. It’s so strange to look back at the comments on the oldest posts. Some of them are over nine years old. God knows if any of those people still read the site. Probably not more than a handful. Let’s say someone who commented back then was 18. Now he’d or she’d be 27! I can’t help imagining how their lives could have changed over that time. Some of them may be dead!

3. In 2002, I had a pretty ugly Christmas tree.

Below: A list of exactly 21 old holiday blogs. Most of them are from last year, because when we go back further than that, my misuse of quotation marks is even more legendary than it is today. Continue reading

Posted in 2011 Christmas Season, General | 109 Comments

Tree, Meat, Cake, Gum, Birds.

We’re three weeks away from Christmas Eve. That’s too little. I want five weeks. At least, I did until I remembered that it’d place me squarely at the point where I was going crazy trying to find the ingredients for Thanksgiving’s stuffed mushrooms. That wasn’t fun. Nobody had pine nuts.

Fearing that the speedy calendar will screw me out of covering everything I’d wanted to before Santa comes, today, I’m going to spew red and green until it kills me. Assorted holiday thingamajigs, ahoy!

Philips USB Powered Miniature Christmas Tree: God, yes! Something reasonably “adult!” I’ve become so accustomed to writing about things intended for the pre-tween set that this stupid tree feels like an issue of Playboy. The comparison only works if their December centerfold has silver hair and light-up nipples. Does she?

It’s a six-inch Christmas tree powered by a USB cable, ensuring that your “web time” will be festive even when you’re not looking up recipes for mince pies. It’s seven bucks and worth every penny, and it’s the only thing that has ever made me yearn to work in an office again. I’d gain instant credibility with my co-workers with this on my desk. Nobody with a USB tree could be a tyrant or vulture.

The tree was easily the highlight of my week, which is both a testament to Philips and an insult to me. I could not love it more. Target had ‘em in various colors, but if I’m going to have a computer-powered tree from Christmas Future, I don’t see why I’d pick green over space age silver.

I want more of them. A dozen of them. My printer, scanner and camera cables can wait until January. I want an entire Christmas village surrounding my monitor, casting a disco glow on my pasty skin. I write this because one of Santa’s elves could be taking notes. It’s a hint, Elfie. I don’t need any more zip-up hoodies from American Eagle Outfitters. I hate their logo and would never be their billboard. Continue reading

Posted in 2011 Christmas Season, General | 95 Comments

Holiday Roe.

EDIT: You’ve probably noticed that the Playmobil Advent Calendar has gone MIA. Yeah, I’m canceling it, sorry. Should have originally. My heart just isn’t in it this year. I had a long talk with a chair last night, and that chair made a lot of sense. I should be doing what I want to do, not just what I think I “should” do.

I’m still doing the videos, because they’re fun even if they’re the greatest offenses to mankind ever. My apologies for hope-building and flip-flopping on this the past few weeks! I’ll post a more detailed explanation in the comments.

We went out for sushi tonight.

I needed it. Not so much the sushi, but the “going out” part.

I’m a freelancer. That has upsides and downsides. One of the upsides is my ability to strategically devise “lulls” so that I can write about pink bunny slippers more often. One of the downsides is that I sometimes forget to have any life at all during those lulls.

It’s probably why I’ve seemed so cranky, lately. I’ve been staring at my computer screen since early September, nonstop. We’ve become like an old married couple. I take its quirks as grand offenses. It never shuts the lights off, and it’s always messing up my things.

It’s not like I never go out. Just not enough. I can’t consider a restaurant visit some great achievement in breaking bad patterns, but it’s something.

Baby steps. It’s not like I’m ready to join a club that goes on weekly hikes through the woods just yet. Giant spiders live there.

Sushi was our decision. Now we just had to pick the right restaurant. Continue reading

Posted in 2011 Christmas Season, General | 120 Comments

Christmas Story Crap!

I’m sure I’ve expressed this before, but the word “crap” bothers me. I find it so much more offensive than “shit.” To me, “shit” means “stuff,” but “crap” will always be a gateway to visions of steaming dung piles, scattered loosely about the hay.

Still, sometimes, “crap” fits best. Today it does, anyway. Get set for a sea of Christmas Story crap!

A Christmas Story, if you want to get technical. But nobody adds the “A” in real life.

The short of it is, most of our decorations are in storage, and we don’t want to change that. Our apartment already looks like the work of raccoons. Adding 40 boxes of dusty broken Santa Clauses could push us over the edge.

Buying just a few new decorations and sticking with those seemed wiser this year. Who needs money when you can have shiny new leg lamp stockings? Brothers and sisters, who among you would prefer heat and water to goofy pink bunny slippers?

Down below: An image-heavy tribute to four pieces of crap. Continue reading

Posted in 2011 Christmas Season, General | 60 Comments

The Greatest Christmas Presents Ever: Chapter 3.

December starts tomorrow. So excited. So nervous.

I always put so much pressure on December. That poor month. It’s going to be the busiest of the year, but I still expect it to be the best. Most of us do. We usually get our wish, even if we have to mask some of the days with gallons of spiked nog. Cinnamon-dusted brandy can turn any night into a diary entry worth writing.

If I was smart, I wouldn’t be posting this now. I should save it for later. I should spend the day prepping X-E for its month-long mega-tribute to Mr. Claus. I have to figure out how to do a tiny-sized version of the Advent Calendar. I have to put on white face paint and play with LEGO toys. I have to drink cocoa.

But you know, it’s Christmas, and I have a present to open. Here’s the third chapter of The Greatest Christmas Presents Ever, starring toys I once enjoyed and will again!

Today’s gift is a small one. I know you’re dying to know what’s in those larger boxes, but you’ll have to be patient. Try not to lose sleep over what some stranger online may have bought himself for Christmas. I know you can do this.

Let’s rip! Continue reading

Posted in 2010 Christmas Season, General | 60 Comments

Kraft Mac & Cheese Winter Shapes!

I chose the font in that logo because it looked something like macaroni and cheese. You can’t imagine the thought that goes into every facet of this website. Where is my fame?

After their critically acclaimed Halloween experiment, Kraft is going for extra points with new ‘Tis the Chees’n mac & cheese. Unfortunately for us all, the previous sentence said all that needed saying. How am I going to stretch this out?

Maybe the snowman can get me through another paragraph? Sure he can; look at him! This is the official Kraft Snowman™, as made clear by his orange macaroni scarf. Why else would he so proudly present these limited edition winter shapes? He obviously has a stake in this.

Oh, and notice that painting in the background? The weird creature on the right? Well, I painted that, and the weird creature is named Bibo. In real life, Bibo was an alien alarm clock, sold by Archie McPhee back before they limited their awesomeness to things based on bacon. He had a Snork-like antenna and a clock for a stomach. I used to bring him to school during my sophomore year. I paid the price for that every day. Continue reading

Posted in 2011 Christmas Season, General | 48 Comments