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Halloween Survival Guide

Halloween is here! How to costume? What treats to buy? How do I juggle everything?

No worries. MomMiami has solutions to common Halloween dilemmas:

What’s a "scary" dish I can bring to a party?

Anyone for eyeball tacos? This precious – but scary – dish comes at the suggestion of Chef Maria Cummins with

Cooking with Kids Miami

in Miami Shores.

If you’re having a Halloween party, or have to bring something to a friend’s, here’s an easy dish that your kids can help put together.

• Start with ground beef or turkey. Add your taco seasoning, then shape into meatballs and cook.

• Use a hard taco shell and line with shredded lettuce. Insert two cooked meatballs. Use a dab of sour cream on each meatball for the whites of the eyes.

• A slice of black olive goes on top of the sour cream to make the pupil. Go one step further by using thinly sliced red peppers to make "bloodshot" eyes.

"It’s a healthy recipe that’s easy and scary, because it looks like a little face," Cummins said. "It’s also hands-on for the kids, because they can shred the lettuce and assemble the tacos."

What’s an easy costume I can make at home?

Duck Tape costumes have become a popular last-minute option, said Loren Rutledge, a spokeswoman for Michaels, an arts and crafts store.

"Michaels carries a wide assortment of Duck Tape patterns and colors to choose from, so there are endless creation opportunities," she said.

Here is one children’s costume idea: Duck Tape Gnome Shirt and Hat.


Cover an entire child’s T-shirt with red Duck Tape. Cut a triangle shape in the neckline and tape over cuts.


Use brown Duck Tape to make a belt. Wrap around the waist.


Use blue Duck Tape to create two large buttons and a belt buckle. Attach to belt.


Cut slit down back of shirt and use tape to make flaps. Attach sticky-back Velcro to flaps to create closures.


To make the gnome hat, use a large sheet of paper and wrap into a cone shape to fit child’s head. Cover hat with blue Duck Tape. Wrap red tape around the rim of the hat.

My carved pumpkin is wilting. What to do?

We just don’t get those crisp, fall temperatures down in South Florida, so your carved pumpkins need an extra bit of TLC, said Adrian Hunsberger, an urban horticulture extension agent with the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service in Miami-Dade.

After you buy your pumpkin, store it indoors in the air-conditioning. Refrigerate, if you have the room.

"Remember, it’s a piece of dead fruit, so what you’re doing is trying to slow down the decaying process," Hunsberger said.

Wait to carve your pumpkin until you need it – the day before your party or Halloween. For best results, keep your carved masterpiece in the fridge or in the AC until showtime. Then light your candle and enjoy the spooky results.

What are the best treats to buy to not jeopardize MY diet?

Start by NOT buying your favorite candies to distribute, said Donna Kinney, a dietician and nutritionist for Gordon Food Service in Miami.

Halloween candy.

When offering treats yourself, select snacks that provide some nutritional value, such as dried or fresh fruits, fruit newtons, Newton crisps, popcorn, pretzels or whole grain chips. Mini-size candy like Hershey's Dark Chocolate Kisses or Special Dark Miniatures have less sugar, plus some fiber, protein and antioxidants.

Try mini-packs of gum, which have fewer calories and are enjoyable for kids of all ages, Kinney says.

Researchers have found that children ages 3-14 were just as likely to choose a small toy instead of candy, she says, so think about passing out Halloween temporary tattoos, bouncy balls, bubbles, or other inexpensive items from the party or dollar store.

How do I cram in dinner, costumes and trick-or-treating when Halloween falls on a weeknight?

Here are some tips from Diane Hatcher, owner of

Time Savers Professional Organizing Services

in South Florida:

• Keep a normal schedule as much as possible. Give kids dinner before they go out trick-or-treating. "This way they will not be grouchy and won’t be so hungry for candy," Hatcher says.

• Start out early so you can end with enough time for your kids to wind down and get to sleep.

• Set guidelines and boundaries in advance. Let them know that you will trick-or-treat for a certain period of time, or a predetermined number of houses or blocks.

• Establish in advance that they need to go to bed at the usual time (or thereabouts) to be ready for school in the morning.

• Have the next day’s school clothes laid out before bedtime.

• If you expect resistance, strike a bargain. If they come home and get ready for bed without an argument, offer them a reward. For example, allow them to eat their three favorite pieces of candy that night, or take a piece of candy in their lunch box the next day, or have a treat every day after school for a week.

What Halloween candy is hardest on my child’s teeth?

Super tacky treats such as taffy, gummy bears and sticky caramel are the worst offenders, because they stick to the teeth longer and take more time to break down, say the pediatric dentists at Main Street Children’s Dentistry of Kendall.

"They cause acids to build up that create cavities. They can also get caught in the crevices between the teeth," says Dr. Elena Menendez, a pediatric dentist. "Candy apples, another Halloween tradition, also can wreak havoc on those fillings."

But it’s not only sticky treats that can do damage.

"Hard candies such as jawbreakers are another no-no," says Dr. Teddi Littman, a pediatric dentist. "These can be damaging, causing cracked teeth and tongue bites. They also are often

held in the mouth for extended periods of time, causing acid build-up."

The best bets for candies (if there is such a thing) are small chocolates such as M & Ms and peanut butter cups because they are soft, non-sticky and quickly devoured.

The most important thing is to allow candy consumption in moderation and be sure to brush and floss carefully after a night of sugary treats.

How do I get rid of all this leftover candy?

Have conversations with your kids about practicing moderation when it comes to collected candy and treats, nutritionist Kinney said. Talk to kids ahead of time about what to do with all the candy after Halloween.

Remember: Out of sight, out of mind. Allow them to choose a set amount of candy, three to five fun-size pieces a day, and get the rest out of the house.

Talk to your kids about charitable giving, possibly donating some of the collected candy to a local shelter, nursing home or church. Bring it to your office to share the wealth (and the calories) with your co-workers.

Unload the goodies through a

Halloween Candy Buy Back

program, which recruits area dentists and orthodontists to buy leftover Halloween candy for $1 a pound. The candy goes to Operation Gratitude and other military support organizations, which send the sweets to military troops overseas. The nonprofit

Treats for Troops

also collects candy to send to the military.