Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sweets & Treats

Halloween: It's all about the candy.

OK, not entirely true. It's about dressing up, having fun, carving pumpkins, getting scared (in a fun way), hanging out with friends, and (in the Midwest anyway) having one last hurrah before winter comes in and puts the kibosh on fall fun.

But the treats are where it's really at.

If you were big into trick-or-treating like yours truly, you usually had some kind of game plan. You knew which houses to avoid (like the dentist who always gave out those plastic vampire teeth and - not even kidding - toothbrushes) and which to hit early in the night (the awesome couple who gave out full or king size candy bars every year). To ensure maximum candy collection, you might have decided ahead of time who would ring the doorbell at each house or might have gotten the largest pillowcase you could find in hopes of filling it to the top (a goal that I sadly never reached). No matter what, the highlight of Halloween was checking out the loot at the end of the night.

Being a particularly quirky kid, I didn't settle for pouring out my candy and eating it right then and there. No, I had other plans. I would pour out the candy, grab a pen and paper, and tally up all the goods. I'd make piles of each brand and mark them down as I went. By the end, I knew exactly how many Reeses cups or Twizzlers I had and knew the overall candy count from the night's haul. 

Why? Two reasons. First is that I'm just OCD. I love making lists and taking inventory. Seriously. Second reason was for trading purposes. If someone had something I wanted, I knew how many of which candies I had to barter with. Say someone had a delicious 100 Grand bar. I could check my list and see that I had plenty of Kit-Kats to spare (which, while tasty, are not among my favorites). Likewise, if someone wanted my Nestle Crunch and I only had 2, I knew that trading wasn't an option (love me some Crunch!).

My parents never had to worry about me eating candy while out and about that night because it would have thrown off my overall count, and I couldn't have that. (How did my parents not realize I was OCD??) So whenever those stories came out about kids eating candy that had needles in them, my parents got to relax, knowing they would be able to check my stash before any of it was consumed.

That having been said, today I will share with you my top 5 tips for successful trick-or-treating. You might be "too old" to go for yourself, but you can pass these along to any kids or teens who may want the inside scoop from a seasoned veteran.

1) Start early, stay late. This comes with a few caveats. Don't start before it's dark; that's when the little guys and gals get their turns. Likewise, if you know a family has little ones, they might not be home when you first start, so plan accordingly. And don't go too late. Remember the golden rule of trick-or-treating: If the lights are on, you're good to go; if the lights are gone, the answer's no. My best advice is to head out just after it gets dark (use whatever gauge you want; I like to use the street lights as my guide) and go no later than 9. Most houses will be done closer to 8, but any that are still going after that are likely to give you more candy since the night is winding down.

2) Keep your group smaller. I know, you have a huge group of friends and you all want to go together. That's fine, but it may slow you down. Slow = less candy. If you have a big group, consider breaking into two smaller groups as you go down the street. One group can start on one side and the other on the opposite side. When you're at the end, switch and meet back up at the other end. You don't have to keep the same groups every street, and you can typically move faster when there are fewer people to get through the process at each house.

3) Be polite. It doesn't sound like much, but think about it. If there's a group of younger kids heading to the same house as you, and you rush up to beat them, do you really think you're going to get more candy? No way. Let the little ones go first. They usually don't take much candy (so they're probably not going to run out before they get to you) AND the treat-givers are more likely to be generous if they see that you let the others go first. This is especially important the older (or taller) you are. Some people are weird about older kids on Halloween, so being nice and polite will give you the best odds at candy collection. Oh, and remember to thank people for candy. They don't have to give it to you.

4) Be enthusiastic! Seriously. If you show up at my door and mumble, "Trick or treat" or just stand there and look at me while holding your bag out or grabbing at the bowl in my hands, I'm not going to be inclined to shower you with candy. Same if you show up with little to no costume on (a scary mask while you're wearing a sweatshirt and jeans is not a costume). Put some effort into the night; it's a holiday for crying out loud! It's almost as much for the candy givers as the candy takers. I didn't realize that until I was an adult, but it's true. I love to see the creativity that comes along on Halloween, and I get a kick out of kids who are beyond thrilled to be at my door just for a few pieces of chocolate. 

5) Strategy. In most cases time is money; on Halloween, time is candy. Like I said earlier, knowing who is going to ring the bell BEFORE you get to the door helps you be more efficient. I'm not saying you should have a set schedule, but sharing the responsibility makes it more fun (who doesn't love to ring a doorbell?) and saves time in the long run. And knowing which houses you can skip will also save you some time (and some disappointment). Also, I suggest taking a bag/container with handles. Pillowcases are fun and I admire the goal of filling them, but they aren't that easy to carry around, especially as the night goes on. Handles give you a better grip, and a smaller bag will make it seem like you got more candy. Use some common sense; if a house is swamped when you get to it, head across the street instead. By the time you're done there, the crowd will probably have subsided.

So, there you have it. Do I miss trick-or-treating? You're damn right I do. But I'm all for helping kids get more out of their Halloween experience. :)

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