Category: Halloween

Trick-or-Treating Tips for Rural Residents

If someone were commissioned to paint a picture of Halloween bliss, it would probably showcase a neighborhood full of children ringing doorbells and gathering treats. Millions of children and adults participate in the annual ritual of trick-or-treating. For urban and suburban children, close-by neighbors make it quite easy to fill up sacks of candy. However, people who live in rural areas — where homes may be miles away from one another — may find that traditional trick-or-treating poses a challenge. For kids who live by farmland or off country roads, trick-or-treating may not be a stroll through a well-lit area with sidewalks and welcoming neighbors with open doors. Such youngsters may have to traverse dark roads and dodge motorists who do not expect people to be walking on the shoulder.

So what is a rural kid, or any child whose resides in an area that is not conducive to trick-or-treating, to do?

Hit the road. Plan a road trip to a neighborhood where trick-or-treating is encouraged in full force and is safe and inviting. Friends or family members may live in such neighborhoods and can host “out-of-town” trick-or-treaters. Others who are choosing a town off a map may want to try an app called Nextdoor. It is a free and private social media site for neighbors that employs a Treat Map. Halloween fans can see exactly which houses are trick-or-treat friendly. In 2014, Zillow issued a list of the 20 best neighborhoods for trick-or-treating as well.

Head to a shopping center. While it may not be the same as going door-to-door, rural residents can trick-or-treat at nearby shopping centers. Many shopping centers and malls host area children and dispense treats.

Organize a trunk-or-treat. Trunk-or-treat events involve various participants parking in a community lot and opening their trunks or truck hatches to crowds of trick-or-treaters. Often these events are hosted by churches, schools or organized clubs.

Trick-or-treating can be challenging for kids growing up in rural areas. But with a little ingenuity, such youngsters can secure their Halloween bounty as well.

Learn How to Carve a Better Pumpkin

Toothy grins and a mesmerizing orange glow help make jack-o’-lanterns captivating sights come Halloween. Pumpkin carving is an autumn tradition and runs the gamut of simple designs to more intricate artwork worthy of any medium. Although anyone can grab a pumpkin and get started, when done correctly, jack-o’-lantern designs can last for several days.

• Start with a fresh pumpkin. Look for pumpkins that have a thick, green stem. These usually are fresh and haven’t been handled much. A thick stem also may indicate fleshier pumpkin walls that can be carved more easily. Avoid pumpkins that are soft or full of blemishes, or those that have dried, shriveled stems.

• Cut a hole in the back. Rather than impeding the structural integrity of the pumpkin by cutting off the top and the stem for interior access, cut a hole in the back of the pumpkin. This will still make it easy to reach inside and clean out the pumpkin.

• Scoop out the pulp and seeds. Be sure to thoroughly clean the inside of the pumpkin. Leaving the pulpy, stringy matter and seeds inside can cause the pumpkin to rot that much faster and produce a foul odor. Scoopers, spoons and even hand shovels can help.

• Keep it cool. Heat can adversely affect carved pumpkins, so work in a cool area and store the pumpkin in a cold garage or refrigerator if you need a few extra days before displaying it. Also, carving experts suggest using an electric light inside rather than a candle; by using a candle, you’re essentially cooking the pumpkin from the inside.

• Work in your lap. When carving faces or intricate designs, looking down onto the pumpkin provides more control.

• Don’t cut all the way through. Many pumpkin designers end up shaving or scraping off the outer rind of the pumpkin, but leave a delicate orange film underneath. Light can still shine through, but the design will not collapse on itself as easily if you were to cut straight through the pumpkin wall. Experiment with different tools to achieve the desired look.

• Maintain the freshness. Rubbing exposed areas of the pumpkin flesh with petroleum jelly may help keep the pumpkin moist. Some designs will last for a few days. However, since pumpkins are highly perishable, it’s wise to wait to carve until a day or two before putting a pumpkin on display.

A Spiced Dessert for Halloween Parties

Halloween party hosts may want to have a variety of treats on hand to satisfy the assortment of sweet tooths in attendance. Candy might be the first thing people think of on Halloween, but cakes and cookies can make for delicious treats as well. Borrowing from the flavors of the season, including pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg, “Spiced Pumpkin Cake” from “Real Simple: Easy, Delicious Home Cooking (Time Home Entertainment)” from the editors of Real Simple can be a welcome addition to any Halloween spread.

Spice Pumpkin Cake (Serves 12)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan

3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for the pan

5 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

11⁄2 teaspoons baking powder

3⁄4 teaspoon baking soda

1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt

11⁄2 cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree

1⁄2 cup whole milk

1⁄4 cup molasses

11⁄4 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 12-cup bundt pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium-high heat until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. One at a time, beat in the eggs. Beat in the pumpkin puree, milk, and molasses (the mixture may appear curdled). Reduce the mixer speed to low; gradually add the flour mixture and mix until just combined (do not overmix). Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Drizzle over the cake. Let set before serving.

Tip: This cake can be baked and glazed up to one day in advance. Store, covered at room temperature.

How to Talk to Kids About Halloween Safety

Come Halloween, youngsters’ attentions are understandably focused on costumes and candy. Their parents, however, are likely more concerned with their kids’ safety. Trick-or-treating kids might not pay much mind to safety. As a result, it can be hard for parents to get kids to grasp the importance of being safe on Halloween. The following strategies might make that task easier.

• Discuss costumes well in advance of Halloween. Many kids are so enthusiastic about Halloween that they know which costumes they hope to wear long before October 31. Parents can discuss potential costumes well in advance of Halloween before kids even know what they want to wear. Doing so gives parents a chance to encourage kids to choose bright costumes that will make them more visible to drivers on Halloween night. Waiting to discuss costumes increases the likelihood that kids will already have an outfit in mind, making it harder for parents to convince them to choose something safe.

• Explain that some tailoring might be necessary to make gathering all that candy a lot easier. Superman doesn’t trip on his cape in the movies, and youngsters dressed up as the Man of Steel shouldn’t trip on their capes, either. When kids pick costumes, explain to them that you might need to do some tailoring before they go trick-or-treating. Explain to kids that costumes should be trip-proof so they can seamlessly go from house to house in search of their favorite goodies.

• Create a bag or bucket design day. Depending on what kids will use to carry the candy they accumulate this Halloween, parents can plan a bag or bucket design day a few days in advance. Kids will enjoy this chance to get in the Halloween spirit, and parents can encourage youngsters to decorate their bags and buckets with reflective tape that will make them more visible to drivers.

• Talk up trick-or-treating with friends. As Halloween approaches, parents can discuss how much fun kids will have going door-to-door with many of their friends. This is a good way to ensure kids trick-or-treat in large groups, making them more visible to drivers. In addition, kids trick-or-treating in large groups might be too busy joking with their friends to notice when one or two parents tag along as chaperones. Parents can discuss Halloween safety with their children in ways that make it fun to be safe while trick-or-treating.

Improve Visibility While Trick-Or-Treating (And Other Safety Tips)

Thousands of costume-clad children will embark on treat-finding missions in neighborhoods all across the country this Halloween. Everyone wants their Halloween festivities to be fun, but it is important that trick-or-treaters and their chaperones prioritize safety as well.

The child welfare organization Safe Kids says that twice as many child pedestrians are killed while walking on Halloween compared to other days of the year. In addition, the National Safety Council states that darting out or running into the road accounts for about 70 percent of pedestrian deaths or injuries among children between the ages of five and nine and about 47 percent of incidents for kids between the ages of 10 and 14.

Ensuring trick-or-treating youngsters are visible to motorists can make Halloween safer for everyone involved. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other safety groups suggest the following strategies for safe trick-or-treating.

· Supervise the festivities. Adults should chaperone young trick-or-treaters who are unlikely to be focused on safety in the midst of Halloween excitement.

· Use reflective tape or LED lights. Dark costumes coupled with twilight can make it difficult for motorists to see trick-or-treating youngsters. Parents can improve the chances of their kids being seen by motorists by adhering reflective tape onto kids’ costumes. Glow sticks and wearable LED lights also can illuminate trick-or-treaters.

· Carry lanterns or flashlights. Children and/or chaperones who carry flashlights and lanterns can improve their own visibility while also making themselves more visible to motorists. Lanterns and flashlights help trick-or-treaters avoid holes, cracked pavement and other obstacles. For those children who want to free up their hands for better treat gathering, lights that strap to the head are an option.

· Keep the lights on. Homeowners can do their part by keeping outdoor flood lights and accent lighting on to make paths safer for youngsters on the prowl for Halloween candy.

· Choose face makeup over masks. Children wearing masks may not spot oncoming cars or other hazards. Face makeup won’t affect kids’ visibility but will still help them look scary.

With the right combination of caution and fun, Halloween can be an enjoyable time for youngsters and adults.

Throw a Hauntingly Good Halloween Party

Halloween is a special day that delights children of all ages and helps adults feel like kids at heart. Few people want the fun to end once trick-or-treating is over. By throwing a Halloween party, revelers can continue celebrating well into the evening.

When hosting a Halloween party, it helps to determine who will be in attendance before making any plans. Parties that include children should be PG in nature, and hosts should find the right balance between scary and fun. While you want to have a certain measure of the macabre, make sure you don’t send young guests home with nightmares. Reserve gruesome decorations and details for adult-only parties.

Halloween parties do not necessarily need to be ghoulish to be fun. Try a glittery gala masquerade party or decorate exclusively in orange and black. Classically eerie parties may feature ravens and crows, or they can be subtly spooky with red candles and heavy curtains.

Many people can’t wait to dress up for a Halloween party, even picking out their costumes months in advance. Still, not everyone feels comfortable donning a costume. To welcome all guests, don’t make costumes mandatory. One way around this is to set up a Halloween Disguise Table full of accessories that anyone can borrow and use to alter their appearance. Goofy glasses, strange hats, adhesive mustaches, or masks can be fun. If someone didn’t feel comfortable dressing in full costume, he or she may be more apt to pop in a set of plastic fangs or put on a spinning bow tie.

Food is an integral part of any party and can enhance Halloween soirées. Candy is a pivotal component of Halloween and you can play off that theme at your party. Set up a candy bar full of appropriately hued candies of all shapes and sizes. Put them on display in clear glass or plastic canisters so they add to your Halloween décor.

Some people like to get creative with Halloween cuisine, crafting foods into items that may look like parts of the body or other symbols of the holiday. Cookie cutters can turn sandwiches, desserts, biscuits, and many other foods into different shapes. However, foods also can be made a tad more spooky simply by renaming them or presenting them in interesting containers. Why not serve punch out of a fish aquarium? Other beverages can be housed in jugs or old bottles and labeled “potions.” Use laboratory instruments, such as petri dishes, vials and beakers, to serve snacks.

A Halloween party makes for a fun night, and there is no limit to what hosts can do when planning their scary soirées.

Halloween Pumpkin-Carving Pointers

Transforming pumpkins into cleverly carved creations is a Halloween tradition. Each October, glowing pumpkins take up residence near doorsteps and porches, adding to the magical ambiance of the season. Young and old spend time designing their themes and then taking knife to pumpkin to achieve the desired effects.

Carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns can be traced back centuries to Ireland and a story about “Stingy Jack.” The tale involves Jack outwitting the Devil twice, the second time freeing the Devil from a prank in exchange for the promise that he would not claim Jack’s soul should Jack die. When Jack did die, God did not want the unsavory character in heaven, but the Devil could not claim Jack for hell. Therefore, Jack was relegated to roam the planet indefinitely with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put that coal into a carved-out turnip. His ghostly figure was referred to as “Jack of the Lantern.” Later on it was shortened to “Jack O’Lantern.” When Irish immigrants arrived in North America, turnips weren’t plentiful, so jack-o’-lanterns were instead carved into pumpkins.

Today, many people carve jack-o’-lanterns, with some featuring just smiling or grimacing faces while others are far more artistic creations. These tips can help anyone carve a pumpkin.

· Begin with a fresh pumpkin. Look for a pumpkin with a green stem. If the pumpkin has been sitting around for too long or has been handled too much, the stem can get brittle and/or fall off. A thick, fresh pumpkin is best for carving.

· Plan your ideas. Draw a plan for your pumpkin before you make your first cut. Then transfer that design to the pumpkin with pen or a thin marker. Pumpkin-carving kits come with designs that can be “traced” by poking small holes to create the outline of the design.

· Don’t cut all the way through. Many professional pumpkin artists do not actually cut clear through the flesh of the pumpkin. They carve and shave off layers of the outer rind until it becomes more translucent. The level of transparency can be adjusted based on how much skin is removed and as a way to add texture and shadowing. The more air that is allowed to penetrate the pumpkin, the faster it will start to degrade.

· Delay carving until the last minute. Wait until the day before Halloween to begin carving. Pumpkins are a perishable item, and they’ll begin to rot as soon as you begin carving. Spritzing them with water can help them stay fresh, but there’s no turning back the clock once the first cut is made.

· Cut a hole in the back. According to Brooklyn-based Maniac Pumpkin Carvers, cutting off the top of the pumpkin can affect its structural integrity and cause it to rot faster. Instead, cut a hole in the back of the pumpkin and use an electric light to illuminate it. LEDs are advisable because they don’t generate much heat, which can cook and rot the pumpkin from the inside out.

With some creativity and a little know-how, anyone can create an eye-catching jack-o’-lantern.
 
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Preserve Carved Pumpkins in Various Ways

Jack-o’-lanterns and other carved pumpkin designs are frequently the centerpieces of Halloween festivities. The twinkling lights and orange glow of jack-o’-lanterns can add ambiance to any autumn event. The trouble with carving pumpkins is that most people want to do it right away, only to discover their pumpkins wilt and decay long before Halloween.

Nothing ruins Halloween more than visiting a home to trick-or-treat and not getting candy. Equally disappointing is a sad pumpkin display withering away on a front porch. Even though all pumpkins will eventually rot, certain tips can keep carvings from collapsing too soon.

· Choose a sturdy pumpkin. Inspect the pumpkin of your choosing carefully, looking for gouges, spots and holes. Even a small blemish can quickly expand into a mushy mess. Select pumpkins with even color and firm flesh, and make sure that the pumpkin doesn’t feel tender when you push on the skin.

· Visit local pumpkin stands. Pumpkins that have been shipped miles and miles in hot cargo trucks may be overly ripened or battered. Pumpkins that were grown nearby may be fresher. Plus, buying pumpkins locally supports local farmers.

· Scrape the insides of the pumpkin thoroughly. Any moist bits inside the pumpkin will mold quickly. The pumpkin carving experts at Pumpkin Masters recommend scraping as much of the “guts” out as possible, leaving about a one-inch thickness of the wall of the pumpkin.

· Coat the pumpkin. Preservation methods may aim to keep the pumpkin hydrated and inhibit mold and other microbial growth. Commercially sold pumpkin preservation products, such as Pumpkin Fresh®, hold up well. Soaking and spraying carved pumpkins with a bleach-and-water solution also seems to preserve designs.

· Keep it out of the elements. Store carved pumpkins in a cool, dry place. This will help slow down the rotting process for pumpkins exposed to outdoor fungi, other microbes and warm sunlight.

· Use an artificial light source. Reduce the heat inside of the pumpkin and encourage hydration by selecting a battery-powered light instead of a lit candle to illuminate the carving.

· Skip the carving. Once pumpkin skin is compromised, microbes can enter. In lieu of carving, paint or decorate pumpkins in other ways if you want them to stay fresh for a long time. Glow in the dark paint can help pumpkins stand out at night.

Carved pumpkins may last a week or two, while uncut pumpkins can last for a month or more. Keeping pumpkins hydrated and mold-free will prolong your designs.