Category: holidays

Bryce’s Top Ten Halloween Candies

In my interweb surfing this morning, I came across FiveThirtyEight’s new analysis of the best Halloween candy. It’s quite exhaustive, and it goes over just about every candy bar you can think of. (Though there are some holes. No Heath Bar ranking, for example. Not that I like them, but they’re definitely a thing, and so they deserve to be on there.) It got me thinking, though. (More than “How many different ways can Reese’s be on a single list?”) What are my favorite candy selections? What items would I want to see the most in my trick or treat bucket?

I don’t eat much candy anymore, but I still go through the candy my kids haul in each year, and we always start off by sorting them out into piles. Keep. Don’t care. Maybe. (I’m a librarian. We categorize things.) It’s always intriguing to me to see how some kids value different candy differently. MC is always a fan of lollipops. I would rather eat broccoli than a lollipop. (Though I like broccoli, so I guess that’s not saying that much.)

When I was growing up, Halloween candy was always sacrosanct. Whatever you got trick or treating was yours and yours alone. And you had to nurse that supply for as far as it would go. That meant that you held on to every piece, even the stupid flavored wax lips. And you tried it all, getting as much enjoyment out of that supply as possible. Every gram counted. But when you spread it all out to evaluate your haul, there were definitely candies you wanted to see more than others.

What would be my top, if I were trick or treating today? To limit things, I’m going to use only the candy that’s on the list I linked to. A few notes, going into it. First, candy corn. I love me some candy corn, but candy corn as a trick or treating candy is just a big no no. I like to know where my candy corn’s been before I put it in my mouth. Eating stray candy corn from a stranger is like eating jello that fell to the floor. The five second rule doesn’t apply.

Second, Milk Duds and Rolos are really the same thing. (Same as M&M Peanut Butter and Reese’s Pieces.) And Milk Duds are good for movie viewing, but not for your casual candy munching experience. (I like them for movies because they have good endurance. You don’t just want to throw a whole handful of Milk Duds in your mouth at once. Not if you value your jaw.)

Third, honorable mentions. These are candy that I wouldn’t be sad to see, but they couldn’t crack the top ten. Everything else on that list? Pretty much dead to me. I mean, I’d eat it if I was starving, maybe. But I don’t think I’d waste the calories on them otherwise. Except for Good & Plenty. That stuff is rank. Anyway. Honorable mentions:

  • Pixy Stix–There was a kid in grade school who said he snorted Pixy Stix, and I believed him. (You probably would have too, if you’d met him.) I like Pixy Stix, but they’re candy that’s pretty much given up all pretense of being anything other than sugar. You have to admire the marketers and makers of Pixy Stix, though. “Why spend all this money on a recipe when we can just add a bit of flavoring to sugar and sell it like that?” It just might be the quintessential American candy. (And you can snort it, apparently.)
  • Pop Rocks–If this were just about mouth sensation, Pop Rocks would win easily. So fun. But . . . taste? No. Just . . . no.
  • Dots–Bonus points for squishiness. I know some people dislike Dots, but I’ve always had a soft spot for them. Except they stick to my teeth too much for them to really soar.
  • Gobstoppers–Big on staying power, and I don’t mind the taste, but they’re too much like regular hard candy. Too generic.
  • Whoppers–I like how the melt. And they’re tasty, but . . . not top ten worthy. Sorry.
  • Nerds–These might have made the top 10, depending on the flavor, but they’re such a pain to eat, and there’s a significant chance of them spilling all over the place at any point in time. Candy shouldn’t make you work so hard to eat it. And some of those flavors are just too tart.
  • Baby Ruth–It’s a candy bar, so points for that. But it’s not a great candy bar. E for effort, though.
  • M&Ms–And all their variants. Too basic, but they’re yummy. Especially peanut M&Ms. But . . . there’s no “there” there. It’s a simple concept, and it doesn’t do anything to really take that concept to the next level, unless that next level is “What other flavors can we put in here? Mint? Peanut butter?” It’s trying to be too many things to too many people. Pick something, M&Ms.

With that out of the way, here we are. The definitive top ten list of candy for me:

10–Smarties: You get one single piece of candy, but it’s actually like 20 pieces of candy. Seriously. Each pack of Smarties is like a Biblical miracle in your pocket. The pieces are jam packed with flavor, and you get to brag to people about how smart you are whenever you eat them. That’s a Halloween candy that’s punching way above its weight class.

9–Kit Kat: Also a “two pieces in one” candy selection. (Except some of the producers have caught wise to this and started to sell single barred Kit Kats. What’s up with that? How are you supposed to break anyone a piece of a single bar? What are we. Socialists now?) I like the cookieness of the treat, but that same cookieness brings it down some in the rankings, because this is about the best candy. Not the best cookie. Kit Kats need to decide what they are. I don’t feel like eating something that’s having an identity crisis.

8–Hershey Special Dark: I love dark chocolate. Hershey’s isn’t great dark chocolate, but it is dark chocolate. But in the end, it’s also just a single note on the candy scale. It plays that note just fine, but to really soar at Halloween, you need the full range of keys.

7–3 Musketeers: It’s velvety smoothness is downright admirable. Different layers of chocolate are great, but what’s it got beyond that? Plus, this is one of Denisa’s favorites, so I’ve trained myself to build more of an immunity to their allure over the years. Also, see the note for the next bar.

6–Snickers: If this were a full Snickers bar, we might be cracking the top 5. It’s filling, tasty, and has a compelling mixture of flavors and textures. But these days, the Snickers you get at Halloween are like a fifth of a bite. They call them bite sized, sure. If you put five together, maybe. Candy companies have got to stop being so stingy. Everything else in America is all about bigger portions. When did we start scrimping with candy?

5–Milky Way Midnight (and Milky Way regular, I suppose): Midnight is my favorite Milk Way strain, because dark chocolate, and true, this suffers from the same bite portion restraint as the last two candidates, but come on. Milky Way Midnights are just play awesome. If only these were bigger, they’d be fighting for the top spots.

4–Junior Mints: Give me a full box of Junior Mints, and we’d be cooking with gas. (Well, not really. We’d actually just be eating a full box of awesome. Scratch that. *I* would be eating a full box of awesome. You’d be eating nothing, because you were foolish enough to give me the box. That’s a rookie mistake.) But at Halloween, the Junior Mint boxes have all of 4 or 5 mints in them. It’s a travesty, but one we accept in the 4th position, because Junior Mints are incredible.

3–Almond Joys (and Mounds, if you have to): Coconut. Almond. Chocolate. It’s a powerful combination, and they’ve based entire desserts around them. Really, the only drawback to an Almond Joy is the bits of stray coconut you find wandering around in your mouth a half hour after you ate one. Coconut is great at the time, but half hour old coconut that gets mixed in with your dinner later on? (Because of course you snuck in an extra Almond Joy before dinner.) That’s a no no.

2–Butterfingers: Delish. Bigger sizes than the other chocolate bar treats on the list, as well. Peanut butter and chocolate, but in an aggressive way that says “You gonna eat me? Fine. But you’re gonna have to commit to chomping down on me for the next while. I ain’t going down without a fight.” You have to respect a candy with that sort of resolve. Peanut butter and chocolate are pretty much the perfect combination. (And Butterfinger ice cream is incredible, so you’ve even got a way to use surplus pieces, should it come to that.) Bravo!

1–Reese’s Anything: Was this ever really a contest? Reeses takes up 4 of the top 8 slots on FiveThirtyEight’s list. Which, true, is a bit of a cop out. They’re a one trick pony that’s come up with four different ways to show that trick. (And they’ve even managed to convince us that one of those ways (the cursed bite size again) is something to flaunt as a whole different offering.) Reese’s Pieces are candy goodness, but the true cream of the crop is the full size Reese’s cup. Sometimes you’ll even get lucky and have people who give you the two-fer packages, which is the ultimate Holy Grail of trick or treating. Peanut butter. Chocolate. Large size. Double portion. The stars align, and heaven smiles upon you. Give me that any day of the week.

And that concludes my list. Care to complain? Beg to differ? Please illuminate me in the many ways you’re wrong. (And Happy Halloween!)


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My Favorite Groundhog Tradition

It’s Groundhog Day (of course!). And if you’re wondering, yes, Phil did see his shadow. (Six more weeks of winter!) I’m having a party this evening. There will be groundhog treats and a groundhog yankee swap (white elephant, some call it). Those are always fun, but I’d have to say my favorite groundhog tradition of all time is one that’s developed over time.

A few years ago, I got a groundhog hand puppet one year. Each year, we’ve gotten more and more decorations for the holiday (yes. I’m strange), and the hand puppet was added to the crew. One day, I put it on, snuck up on Tomas, and then surprised him with it, shouting out “It’s Groundhog Day!” over and over. Scared him half to death.

And the tradition was born.

Each year, everyone tries to find ways to scare other people in the family with the groundhog puppet. You’d figure we’d catch on and remember, but you’d be surprised what you can forget over the course of the year. This year, I think I almost gave Tomas a heart attack, jumping out at him as he came out of the bathroom.

A small furry creature flying out at your face out of nowhere can be really intimidating.

So, if you’re looking for a fun way to celebrate year after year . . . maybe buy a hand puppet. Click on the pic at the top of this post and buy one for next year. 🙂


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Quirky Local Celebrations?

This past weekend, the family headed out for the yearly Chester Greenwood Day Parade. I’m pretty sure I’ve blogged about this in the past, but for those of you not in the know, Chester Greenwood was the inventor of the earmuff, and he’s from Farmington, Maine, right where I live and work. So the first Saturday of December is always Chester Greenwood Day, and there’s always a big parade in town where everybody wears earmuffs. (Even the trucks and buses.)

We’re just cool like that.

But I wondered what other places do for quirky celebrations. I know Payson, Utah does Onion Days every year. (Having attended a few Onion Days parades myself). It celebrates the onion harvest, because . . . I guess onions were really big in Payson? (Clearly I fail at understanding why I’m watching a parade dedicated to an onion year after year.) And the whole state of Utah has Pioneer Day, celebrating the day the pioneers first entered the Salt Lake valley. (See? I did better at that one.)

So my question for you this fine Monday is what quirk celebrations do you know of in your neck of the wood? After all, that seems to be where Groundhog Day really came to life. Quirky local celebration makes the big-time. Who knows. Maybe Chester Greenwood Day will be all the rage years from now. I know the parade this year was pretty darn big. The sky’s the limit! (As long as the sky is wearing earmuffs, that is.)

What’s Been Your Favorite Costume?

Happy Halloween, everybody! I thought I’d take some time today to think back on the various costumes I’ve worn over the years, and to ask you which ones you’ve worn that you’ve really liked.

For me, I’m not really a huge dresser upper. In fact, I’ll be impressed if I can remember more than a handful of costumes as I do this exercise. But hey. It’s worth a shot, right? I don’t have a political post in me today, despite all the political news flying around. It’s Halloween. I’m taking a break. So without further ado, here we go:

  • Eeyore. I believe I’ve blogged about this before, but I have a big full-size Eeyore costume my mom got me probably about . . . 18 years ago? I’m not honestly sure. But I wear it from time to time, and it’s my go-to lazy costume. It’s a nice one, bought from the Disney Store, as I recall. Just put it on like a jump suit and you’re good to go. As an added bonus, it’s really large, so I can wear it over my coat and warm pants, which comes in handy some Halloweens out here in Maine. But I don’t wear it every year, because I don’t want people to get too tired of seeing me in it.
  • Yoda. This is the first costume I can remember wearing for Halloween. I loved it, even though it was just a plastic mask and a plastic smock. Straight from a box. But come on. Yoda? It doesn’t get cooler than that.
  • Clown. Not a scary clown. Just a clown. Red nose. Colored wig. Big bow tie. Done. (Are you sensing a theme?)
  • Draco Malfoy. Brandon Sanderson hosted a Harry Potter murder mystery party way back in the day. One which he had written in his spare time. (This sounds like an awesome charity event or something now. Back then, it was just friends getting together to do something cool.) Denisa was Pansy Parkinson. I was Draco. This one I actually worked at some. We made Slytherin patches, got cloaks, and made green and silver ties for us both to wear. I didn’t look anything like Draco from the movies, though. Didn’t dye my hair anything. But it was fun.
  • Ralph, from Groundhog Day. Come to think of it, I wrote a murder mystery of my own based around Groundhog Day a few years ago. Who killed Ned Ryerson? I was Ralph. Denisa was Mrs. Lancaster. It was a pretty easy costume. Just wear a hat with ear flaps and some plaid. Done. That was a fun party.
  • Ernie from Sesame Street. I’ve seen pictures of this one. My mom made a Bert and Ernie costume for my brother and me. But I don’t remember actually wearing it. Just too young.

And . . . that’s it. Those are all the costumes I can remember. I think I might have been a vampire at some point. I remember face paint and pointed glow in the dark teeth. But it’s too hazy to be sure. I’ve thrown on a Yankees jersey from time to time to make a half-hearted attempt to at least be dressed up as something. But I can’t honestly remember any other costumes I’ve worn. There must have been others.

I’m always impressed by the outfits people come up with, but I just have never been one to make them myself. How about you? Anything you’re particularly proud of? Please share!

Groundhog Limerick Contest

Faithful readers will remember that five (five!) years ago, I ran a groundhog Haiku contest here on my blog. It was well received, with a big campaign effort by some of the contestants. It came right down to the wire, and I had a  lot of fun with it.

For this year’s Groundhog Day party, I decided to bring back the poetry, but to keep things lively, I switched the poetry format. That’s right, folks: limericks!

I made the stipulation that they had to be clean. No dirty groundhog limericks on my watch, people. But other than that, the sky was the limit. I wasn’t sure how many of my party goers would enter, but I was really happy to get 10 entries in the space of about 15 minutes. Limerick’s aren’t the easiest things to write off the cuff. Harder than haikus, at least.

So once again, let’s have a contest. I’m going to follow the pattern I set five years ago. This post will collect all entries for the contest. You can enter as many times as you like. I’m going to leave this open for a week. A week from now, I’ll select the top 5 entries and create a new post just for them. At that point, you all get to vote for which one you like the most.

But a contest wouldn’t be a contest without a prize. I gave away naming rights in my latest novel last time (TARNHELM, for those of you playing along at home.) So I’ll do the same thing this time. The winner can name a character in my current work in progress, which is top secret for now, but which will hopefully not be top secret in the very near future. Simple and straightforward. Win the contest. Have your name (or a name of your choosing) in my book. (I reserve the right to veto any names, assuming they’re not your legal name . . .)

For a refresher for those of you aspiring poets, here’s a quick rundown of what a limerick is. And without further ado, I present to you the entries so far:

Here we are at the house of Bryce
To celebrate groundhog on ice
Hit by the big truck
Head off like a puck
This poem is not very nice.

When pulling me out of a log
Let’s hope there’s not much of a fog
Shadow, I may see
Lest you pay a fee
I’m February’s fat star hog

Groundhog groundhog groundhog groundHOG
Groundhog groundhog groundhog groundBOG
Shadow shadow GROUND
Shadow shadow ROUND
Groundhog groundhog groundhog groundlOG.

Fateful day this groundhog delay
Groundhogs keep winter at bay
Blinded by the light
Of shadows in sight
For his shadow was seen at midday.

There’s an animal hogging the news
And casting shadows on views
It’s the groundhog, of course
Our annual source
Of featherbrained seasonal clues

Once an old groundhog from PA
Snuck into the garden to pray
While there on a stump
He just thought of Trump
And gave up and moved to Bombay.

There once was a groundhog with a beard
Who said “it is just as I feared!
Two owls and a hen
4 larks and a wren
Have all built their nest in my beard!”

In days of old, when Grandpa Jack was not old,
And hunting laws were not invented,
The groundhog would die,
And on his stove they would fry,
And Jack’s stomach would be most contented.

There once was a groundhog from Spain
Who stepped in a trap and had pain
His shadow he saw
Six more weeks for pa,
Unless it was starting to rain.

There once was a groundhog named Phil
Who lived in a hole in a hill.
He ate and he ate
Until he felt great,
But Denisa wanted to kill.

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