Archive for October, 2011

Magpie's Selection of All Hallow's ReadingsSweet dreams, and happy reading.

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Caramel Apple Wedges

Honeycrisp apple dipped in caramelHere’s one of my favorite tricks for a quick treat on Halloween (or anytime I get the urge): Caramel Apple Wedges.  Three ingredients—caramels, milk, and apples; scale according to need.

Unwrap the caramels, and put them in a microwave-safe dish (I use one of the kind that has a lid for easy storage).

Caramels and Apple

Add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of milk per dozen caramels.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds, then stir, microwaving for 20 seconds at intervals to soften.

Stirring partially melted caramelKeep stirring and microwaving until smooth.  Keep the microwave times short—you don’t want the milk to curdle or the caramel to burn.

Cut apples into wedges, and serve with caramel to dip.  My favorite eating apples lately are Honeycrisp.  I like a tart, crisp-textured apple, and these (as their name implies) are nice and crisp, but they are also juicy and full of flavor, and not (despite their name) too overly sweet.

On second thought, don’t worry about a lid; storage isn’t likely to be a problem!

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E (Trick or Treat)

From: Trick or Treat!


E (Trick or Treat)



velyn exhaled in exasperation.  Ectoplasm was everywhere. Even her evening wear had not escaped.

“Ethan,” she enjoined the empty ether, “when you expired—so expeditiously—I expected that would be an end to our engagement.”


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Affehaus of Jaded Monkey was inspired by my All Hallow’s Read eBook, Bedtime Story, to write one of his own, but suggested (correctly) that turning it into an eBook sounded like a lot of work.  I thought it was a cool story, and offered to do the design and formatting in exchange for bananas promotional considerations (and hey, look, I’m not just using that Graphic Design degree for cultivating mold in the shapes of letters of the alphabet)!

The story is called Jackanapes, and you can pick up your very own digital copy over at Jaded Monkey.

Edit: It seems Jaded Monkey is having some technical difficulties.  Meanwhile, you can download you copy of Jackanapes here. (He’s baaaack.)

Cover art for Jackanapes (design by M.J. Pyle)Artwork by M.J. Pyle for the short eBook, JackanapesArtwork by M.J Pyle for the short eBook, Jackanapes

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Harvest ChiliWhen the weather begins to turn cold again, I get a hankering for all those cold-weather dishes that I haven’t had in a while.  Today, with great, wet snowflakes falling outside between freezing raindrops, is certainly crying out for chili.  Fortunately for once, I was ahead of this particular weather trend.

While we were still enjoying warm sunny days during the past week, I was plotting ways to use up a whole mess of end-of-season peppers. And one of my favorite things to do with a big, unruly pile of assorted use-it-or-lose-it produce is to throw it all into my largest pot, with a bunch of spices, and let it simmer for about a half a day.  (See where the cold-weather bit comes into the picture again?)

Anaheim, Poblano and Cherry Peppers

Start with a Big Mess o' Peppers


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Here’s a bonus Halloween edition of Wall and Sundry—a ghostly trio of butternut squash.

Trio of Butternut Squash Ghosts


click for desktop wallpaper (iPod wallpaper below the fold)



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Unpredictable and unrepentant, Halloween also remains stubbornly unofficial and underground, and this may be the key to understanding the tumult that regularly erupts in its name.  Despite the considerable cultural space Halloween now occupies, despite the billions of dollars it annually spins, and despite the passionate commitment millions devote to the holiday, no legislative body has ever seriously considered making it legal.

-David J. Skal, Death Makes A Holiday,
A Cultural History of Halloween

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Bedtime Story, All Hallows Read 2011

When I was small, I was drawn to ghost stories.  Like a moth to a flame, you might say, since I inevitably scared myself up-all-night silly—to my parents’ chagrin.  Every oddly shaped lump of laundry, every bit of bric-a-brac would metamorphose into something terrifying, as soon as the lights went out.  Nowadays, I’ve gotten a little better at not letting my imagination completely carry me off, but also, and more importantly, I’m the one in charge of the light switch.

I’m still a moth to that flame sometimes, though.

Like the time (when I was not-so-small), that I sat down in the cozy late afternoon sunlight to play a bit of Resident Evil, and became so engrossed in the dark and scary digital world that I didn’t notice the light slipping stealthily out of the room.  The very real room.  Where I was sitting.  Until I suddenly realized that I was sitting in the dark, with zombies, and the nearest light switch was yards away, across what was sure to be zombie-infested darkness.

Just imagine if there was no light switch.

I know, no light switch, no Resident Evil, you say.  We’re somewhat distanced today from the coming of night, but imagination is still with us. We can still imagine what it would be like to have every day slide inexorably, inevitably into darkness. Once, we lived our lives in that balance, in the struggle between Light and Dark, Life and Death, Summer and Winter, and we planted Halloween at the crossroads.

Halloween is a celebration of imagination, and we often share that imagination by telling each other stories.  We’ve always been telling stories for Halloween—stories about the future, and the past.  About who we are and who we want to be.

But especially stories about what we’re afraid of.

Recently, author Neil Gaiman (someone who knows about imagination) proposed that we make it a formal, informal tradition— that we give each other scary books, the week of or on Halloween.

This is a tradition that I will be happy to leave a light on for.

So here, to celebrate, is a short, spooky eBook (a story previously posted, in two parts, in this post and this one)—my All Hallow’s Read present to you:

Bedtime Story

Cover Art: Bedtime Story, M.J. Pyle

pdf eBook: click to download

Happy All Hallow’s Read!

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D (State of Decay)

From: State of Decay


D: State of Decay


on’t go in the basement.

on’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Over a ploughed field something snake-like slithered and swam.  It was a stoat following the scent of its prey, moving keenly and fast.  It ran up and down furrows, bounded across ridges, doubled back, looped, twisted, worked farther out into the field, then came back towards the edge again.  It crouched, ran, sprang, and crept, quivering with excitement, seeing the vivid colour of a smell.

-J. A. Baker, The Peregrine

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