Tag Archives: shopping

The Halloween Candy Calculations

With Halloween just around the corner, two questions that seems to be increasingly on our minds are “How many Halloween treats will we need?” and “Is it too early to buy?”

When I was growing up, I don’t recall there being much debate. The number seemed generally stable from year to year. When the neighbourhood’s teens felt they were getting too old to be trick or treating, younger kids were replacing them. And if I remember correctly, 60 to 70 kids seemed to be the norm for many years. When it came to Halloween, it was suburban stability.

Also, back then, Halloween candy didn’t grace our store shelves until after the “Back-to-school” season was over… when kids were back at school. I don’t recall any retail shenanigans of having Halloween candy on the shelves a couple of weeks into the summer break.

In the couple of weeks leading up to Halloween, Mom would buy 60-70 treats. On Halloween night, most (if not all) of the treats would be distributed. The end.

But that hasn’t been the case recently.

When I moved into my own home, as a first-time owner, I took great joy in the preparation and in the decorating. I even dressed up a few times too to greet the kiddies at the door. It’s been a lot of fun.

I enjoyed seeing the thought and creativity that went into the costumes, especially for the toddlers who were out on their first trick or treating journeys.

But in my new home, the fluctuations in the number of kids, year over year, has been like a wild ride on the New York Stock Exchange.

The slightest drizzle seemed to keep them away. On a clear night, the doorbell never stopped ringing, and with kids I have never seen before. Trying to figure out that magic number as a happy medium for both eventualities became an increasingly difficult challenge.

Plus, the early arrival of Halloween candy on store shelves made it even more challenging.

I tried to figure out a fool-proof algorithm to determine how many treats I needed to buy from one year to the next but there are so many variables, it has been hard to get the average number right:
– How many kids came to the door last year? What was the weather like?
– How many kids came to the door the year before? What was the weather like?
– How many kids may have aged out of the trick or treating cohort?
– How many older kids may be returning to the trick or treating cohort?
– How many little ones may be joining the trick or treating cohort for the first time?
– On what night of the week will Halloween night fall (i.e., Fridays and Saturdays are generally busier)
– Are the Halloween treats at such a sweet price that I should buy early?
– How many weeks ahead of Halloween do I plan on buying the treats?
– Will there be another opportunity to get these treats at this price?
– How much discipline do I have this year to just put them away and not dip into the reserve of Halloween candy before the big night?
– Am I watching my waistline?
– Am I watching carbs?
– Am I watching my sugar intake?
– Am I watching my caloric intake?
– Have I been working out enough lately, so that it won’t matter if one “accidentally” fell out of the bag?
– If I do dip into the reserve of Halloween treats, will I have the opportunity to replenish before the big night?
– What is the probability of scooping some up at the last minute at 50% off?
– And closer to the big night… what is the weather forecast for that night?

One year, I contemplated buying treats that contained gluten, because there would be NO WAY I would be eating them, and any leftovers would have to be brought to the office. But then I started feeling guilty and sympathetic toward the poor kids who may have been gluten intolerant as well. That wouldn’t have been fun for them.

Then in the years that I was disciplined enough to not sneak a treat or two before the big night, the weather would turn ugly and then I’d be stuck with all these treats.

I forget how many years ago it was, on one night in particular, I think I had less than 20 trick or treaters, despite really great weather conditions. My algorithm failed me! Sheldon Cooper would have lost it.

After the time I spent that year on the treats calculation, the careful shopping for treats at a good price, the creativity and the decoration, as much as I loved the overall experience, it was a letdown. My inner Martha Stewart felt rejected.

The next year, my hot glue gun was still feeling depressed from the year before and suggested we take a break. I went shopping instead, thinking that maybe this would be a good night to get started on Christmas shopping, especially since Christmas stock had been out before the Back-to-school sales were underway.

What a revelation! The mall was 100% fully functional and absolutely empty. It’s like the mall was entirely mine. It was a perfect opportunity to browse for the perfect gifts.

There were no crowds, no one was pulling tantrums, there was no one walking slowly and staring at their phone while bumping into people, I wasn’t too hot carrying my coat and parcels, and service was impeccable! And the best part, I had no Halloween treats left over to tempt me.

Since then, if I ever was feeling less than spirited about Halloween, Christmas shopping has remained an option. The reality is that without kids of my own, Halloween is what I choose to make it.

Even though I have tried to figure out a ball park estimate of how many treats I needed, I gave up trying to nail the exact number like a gymnast dismounting after a routine and sticking his/her landing perfectly.

There are too many variables to get the perfect number, and the early availability of the treats is a test for anyone’s will power.

As a new homeowner with the best of intentions in having enough treats for everyone, I stressed about it a lot. But that’s not the case anymore. If I run a little short on treats, I shut off the lights and call it a night. If I end the evening with leftovers, I exercise a little discipline and get through them a little at a time.

It may not be efficient from a mathematical perspective, but it’s all about the spirit of Halloween fun.

Did you enjoy this post? If you did, please know that there are plenty more where that came from! If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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My Favourite Things to Do in New York City (Part 2)

In last week’s blog post, I offered a list of my favourite attractions in New York City, but I quickly ran out of space! For that reason, here is part 2 of “My Favourite Things to Do in New York City”:

Feinstein’s/54 Below
Before every trip, I make a point of checking out the event calendar for Feinstein’s/54 Below. Located in the lower level of what was the legendary Studio 54 night club, Feinstein’s/54 Below “offers an unforgettable New York nightlife experience, combining performances by Broadway’s best with world class dining in an elegant setting”. Our first experience at the club was seeing a later performance of the group The Skivvies whose members perform their diverse musical set of pop and Broadway tunes in their undies. It was a brilliantly entertaining show, enjoyed over desserts and drinks, which seemed like a perfect way to end a busy day of sightseeing and entertainment.

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
Once your itinerary has been filled with Broadway shows, if you are still craving more performing arts, Lincoln Center would be your next destination. As their web site explains: “The 16.3-acre Lincoln Center complex, the world’s leading performing arts center, is home to the 11 resident arts organizations that represent the highest standards of excellence in symphony, opera, chamber music, theater, dance, film, and arts education.” The Center’s calendar of events offers a steady rotation of shows and events that are certain to appeal to everyone’s appetite for the arts.

If you have a chance, I would also suggest taking a guided tour of the beautiful campus for a behind-the-scenes look at the magic of this iconic venue.

Bus Tours
When I visited New York for the first time almost twenty years ago, I think we were very smart in incorporating two bus tours into our itinerary, one tour of lower Manhattan and one of upper Manhattan. As a first time visitor with only a limited amount of time, we were able to cover a lot more ground by bus than if we had done it on foot. While the sights were all viewed from the bus window, it still offered us a great appetizer and the opportunity to figure out which sights peaked our curiosity to see up close in the next visits. Ask your hotel’s concierge or front desk team which bus tours they would recommend and to help you pick one that will go by the points of interest that would interest you most. Continue reading

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A Bucket List Trip to Las Vegas

A busy evening on Las Vegas Blvd.

When it comes to Las Vegas, I am definitely no stranger. Despite the distance from Ottawa, I have been there enough times over the years that I seem to have lost count.

It’s not that I consider myself a big gambler. It’s quite the contrary. There are so many things to see and do, whether you like entertainment, food, shopping, sightseeing or just the dry warm weather, Las Vegas can appeal on so many levels.

Back in the early 2000’s I wrote a “Vegas Top 10” email that I kept in my drafts folder for whenever friends and colleagues asked what they should see on their visit. I guess you could consider that my first travel blog entry, before blogs became popular.

The challenge now is that after a decade’s absence, I suspected that my list was getting out of date and not worthy of posting, given the pace at which Las Vegas seems to reinvent itself and to update its attractions.

The opportunity to visit Las Vegas, and to potentially validate my Top 10 list, presented itself last fall as my partner and I decided to treat ourselves and to celebrate our birthdays with tickets to see Cher and Céline Dion in their residency shows.

We were fortunate that our late November travel dates are not considered high tourist season. We believe that this played in our favour as we got pretty good deals on the points required to fly, as well as for our “once-in-a-lifetime” bucket list stay at the Bellagio Hotel. Continue reading

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Jeans and the Generation Gap

A couple of years ago, I wrote about my love-hate relationship with my iron in a tribute to my Dad and his crisp office shirts.

In that same train of thought, when growing up in the 1970’s, while in school in the 1980’s, and when launching my career in the 1990’s, the expectation was to have clean, neat and crisp clothes anytime I set foot outside the house, because “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”. Even if we look back at pictures from that era and question the wisdom of some of our fashion choices, neat and tidy clothing were a common denominator.

My parents’ suit-and-tie generation set the bar pretty high, even for a child. Clothes were meant to be worn gently, and maintained carefully to keep looking new as long as possible. The rotation generally went like this: every September, we got me new school clothes and the previous year’s school clothes (if I hadn’t outgrown them yet) became the “play clothes”, for wearing as soon as I got home from school. When a new batch of school clothes came in, a batch of gently-used play clothes would go to charity.

Along the way, a little nick in clothing meant taking out the needle and thread and try to make an invisible repair to restore it to its original beauty. And if invisible mending wasn’t successful, it went into the donation box.

That’s just the way I was brainwashed… I mean, brought up. It wasn’t just my parents’ generation that instilled this way of thinking, but it was my grandparents’ generation too who declared open war on wrinkles and holes long before I was born. And just think of the staff on Downtown Abbey and how many items they’ve darned and mended through their six seasons.

About 10 years ago, I let myself get talked into buying a distressed pair of brand name jeans with a few strategically-placed pulled threads. I can’t tell you what a struggle it was each time to convince myself to wear them and that I supposedly looked like a cool, edgy, fashion-forward 40 year old. I may have looked it, but I certainly didn’t feel it. Continue reading

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My Writer’s Uniform

For as long as I can remember, spring and fall were usually times to head back to the malls and hunt for a few new items of clothing to refresh the wardrobe.

I would assume that the timing has its origins back to childhood when fall meant “back to school” and spring meant replacing the t-shirts and shorts I outgrew from the previous season. Even though I haven’t set foot in a classroom in years and “outgrowing” holds a different meaning today, the traditions of shopping for spring and fall fashion stuck with me.

But the paradigm of seasonal shopping is starting to shift. With retirement just a few years away, my clothing needs are changing.

I would like to think that until now, for my work life and my social life, I had cultivated a look that struck the right balance between the office dress code, what allowed me to feel comfortable and confident and what pleased me personally.

I developed a uniform of separates I truly loved, that fit me the way I wanted. Through carefully selected long sleeved shirts, sweaters, blazers, dress pants, cotton pants, jeans, shoes, and socks of all colours, it was very easy to mix and match the pieces to achieve a multitude of looks, appropriate for the weather, the occasion, and how I felt on a given day.

I also had on hand the obligatory suits for interviews, weddings and funerals.

Similarly, I knew exactly which pieces traveled better than others, which took the guesswork out of packing for a trip. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Humour, Misc blogs, Writing

Christmas Traditions, Past and Present

What is it about the holiday season that has us so deeply entrenched in tradition?

Is it the reminder of the eager anticipation we felt on Christmas morning, waking up to see what Santa brought? Is it the feast for the senses throughout the month of December? Is it the reminder of a simpler, gentler time?

Or is the totality of the experience, combining the recreation of old familiar traditions with the new experiences that get woven in as the fabric of our lives changes?

Here are ten such traditions that have formed an important part of the holidays for me over the years:

10. Shopping
I recently blogged about how shopping in December is so much fun, I now shop in November. But in all seriousness, I do have very fond memories of being a store clerk in my high school and university years and how much I enjoyed helping last minute shoppers find the perfect holiday gifts. In those last days leading up to the big day, there was magic and electricity in the air that made time fly, helping customer after customer ring through with their purchases and hurry out the door to their family, friends and festivities. I enjoyed that role of a sort of Christmas Elf so much, things may come full circle as something I might reconsider in my retirement years.

9. Christmas cards
Ever since I was a child, I enjoyed sending and receiving Christmas cards through the mail. As I got older I realized that it was impossible to see everyone over the holidays unless I had my own magic sleigh, 8 reindeer and unlimited time. Sending cards is that opportunity to tell someone that I am thinking of them, even if we don’t see each other that often, as well as the chance to convey my best wishes for the new year. True enough, electronic cards, email and texts can still convey the message so much more efficiently, but I still like the ritual of the mailbox and the “Aww!” moment of opening a card, reading a nice greeting and the joy of the ongoing connection with the sender. Plus, when I find a perfect card that captures an inside joke, makes someone laugh, or strikes the right chord in one way or another, it can be a beautiful thing.

8. Baking
Is there anything that helps to stir up the memories of Christmas past than the sweet smell of baking favourite holiday treats? In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I do find myself puttering in the kitchen more than usual, reviving old favourites to bring to potlucks, parties or to give as gifts. When that sweet smell gently fills the house, it really does whisper “Christmas is coming”. Date squares, pecan squares, butter cookies and rum balls, are just some of the traditional indulgences that I revive annually. Continue reading

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Filed under Cats, Christmas, Humour, Lists

How I Became an Early Christmas Shopper

A couple of years ago, in the blog post “The Christmas Trees of August”, I poked fun at the retail sector and how stores seem to be putting out seasonal merchandise earlier and earlier each year.

It is funny how times change.

Here we are, two short years later, and I am finding myself seriously venturing out to Christmas shop earlier and earlier with each passing year.

At the best of times throughout the year, I rarely shop on Saturday afternoons. But in the last weeks approaching Christmas, I also avoid shopping on Saturday mornings as the stores and parking lots get far too busy for me. Then a week later, I will drop Sunday as a possible shopping day. Then a week later, Friday evenings are off the list. A week after that, Thursday evenings are eliminated.

When I only have Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings to get my shopping done, there are only so many hours to accomplish that.

Then add to the mix the wildcard of snowstorms or freezing rain that can strike at any moment. If they do, some of those prime shopping days can unexpectedly disappear.

What does one do in light of this weird Christmas shopping algorithm?… I started shopping earlier.

Why?

I seem to have a romantic notion of Christmas shopping being a fun activity. Continue reading

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