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By Morgue Anne

It’s that time of year again! Time to start thinking about what made-in-China crap you should buy your family to ensure their love for another year. I know this because my neighbor has put up a freakishly bright LED countdown sign in their front yard, and every time I drive past I am filled with increasing dread. Oh, how I wish there was a way to celebrate the holidays with gifts that not only proved my love for the recipients but also rewarded those who hardest with monetary rewards as well. Oh wait, there is!

Seriously, people, how many times do we have to tell you to Stop. Shopping. At. WalMart. You’re hurting everyone. And if you’re one of those people who starts to complain at the very idea of raising the minimum wage because you think people should work hard to strike it out on their own, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. That’s right, this is the Morgue Anne Independent Artist Holiday Gift Guide!

Clothing
Who are you wearing right now? What is the name of the person who made the clothing you have on? Let me guess, you don’t know. Which means it was probably made in a factory somewhere, way off on the other side of the world where you don’t have to think about it. Allow me to back off the negativity for a moment and say that there is nothing in this world that feels as good as clothing that was made just for you.

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By Morgue Anne

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are starting to change, bags of candy are getting pumpkins on them, and Starbucks has rolled out the ‘Pumpkin Spice’ line. Ignore the Santa’s creeping around the corner, roll up your sleeves, and let’s get in the Halloween spirit!

Pumpkin Carving

The tradition of pumpkin carving goes back to the ancient Irish folklore of Stingy Jack, who tricked the devil and carried a hollowed out turnip with a light inside as a lantern to guide himself to the afterlife. When the native Irish came to America, they found that the pumpkins that grew were not only larger, but also easier to carve. Slowly this became the Jack O’ Lantern we have today, and what a fun tradition! 

You may remember that article I did last year about Getting your Carve On, and this year is no different! I still suggest Zombie Pumpkins for patterns, they have just over 300 available for download with a pretty reasonable membership price. Every year I tell myself “I’m going to get a binder, print out one of each pattern they have, and save it for all the years ever” and then I don’t and I just buy a year of membership because it’s totally worth it! 

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By Morgue Anne

I recently got into Pintrest. I know, I’m about two years too late to the game, but it really didn’t hold my attention as anything other than a bookmarks system I could access on any device (and I already use Chrome). With the oncoming Halloween season, I took a peek at some crafting ideas and have since fallen into a black hole of food-porn, makeup ideas, and of course, the many many ways I can turn various objects in my house into skulls.

Fortunately for my editor here at Extollere, I have emerged from the depths of Pintrest to bring you this collection of the 5 tastiest, most creative cupcakes to be found! Cupcakes are great treats that are straightforward enough for anyone to make and easily customized either as a recipe or with decorations! This means that they are great for making with your friends or kids and are always a great treat to bring to a party.

1. Kraken and Coke Cupcakes
Ok, so this first one probably isn’t the best “make with your kids” recipe. Unless your kids are over 21 and you guys bond over getting classily trashed, in which case rock on! Judging from the recipe, I would say this is a medium difficulty cupcake - it’s not as simple as a ‘mix with boxed mix’ but not quite so hard as ‘sculpt a giant kraken out of frosting’. The real kicker here is the frosting, which if I’m honest would probably just end up being eaten with a spoon straight out of the bowl. Great birthday treat for fans of Rum and Cokes!

2. Butterfinger Cupcakes

This is really a recipe for a Butterfinger frosting to go on top of the chocolate cupcake mix of your choice, but if you really want to impress your friends I suggest getting a package of Butterfinger Minis and putting one inside each paper cup before you pour the cake mix in. This creates a surprising little treat inside each cupcake and also works with Reese’s. The frosting itself is a bit of work and requires a vegetable peeler, a blender, and maybe an electric mixer, but seems to be totally worth it to bite into this sinful delight of peanut butter and chocolate. image

3. Cherry Coke Cupcakes

Ok, I’m a Coca-Cola addict. I think Pepsi tastes like poop and can’t stand coffee. Coke is my go-to drink of choice and I may have a small collection to turn it into my food of choice, including these Cherry Coke Cupcakes! If you haven’t heard, you can take a box cake mix, one egg, and a can of your favorite soda to create a ‘soda cake’, but there is so much more fun to be had with cola cupcakes!

This is another medium-skill cupcake made from scratch, but essentially all it is is a chocolate cake with some cherry and cola flavors added in and a coke glaze put over the top. I suggest popping a cherry inside each cupcake because I like delicious filling, but that is totally up to you. Great for birthday parties and sock hops, the Cherry Coke Cupcake is sure to delight everyone - even those damned Pepsi drinkers.

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4. High Heel Cupcakes 

Alright, so you’ve mastered the medium difficulty level. Ready to get a little more advanced?

The cupcakes are easy - make whatever kind you want! The real key here is in the decorating. Graham crackers, Pirouettes, and white chocolate all form the basics of the shoe cupcake, but really the challenge in this is your own creativity - will you make little candy ribbon bows? Sparkles from sugar? The choices are endless! This idea is great for a girls night or bachelorette party, grab a selection of your favorite candies and get inspired!

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5. The Skull Cupcake

Let’s be honest, here. You knew from the moment you started reading this that I would talk about skull cupcakes. But here’s the kicker, I’m not going to share one recipe here. Oh no, I’m going to ask you to come up with your own, because there’s more than one way to bake a skull.
Hun…What’s for Dinner got creative with turning their cupcakes into a skull shape by propping open the cupcake papers with mini marshmallows and frosting the whole oblong.

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Whereas Rubie’s Costume Co makes a mini skull cupcake pan to make that step easy and uniform. 

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I think one of the easiest and most classic is of course to pick up a skull chocolate mold (available at any craft store this time of year) to create a fun and tasty cupcake topper!

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By Morgue Anne

Hello, internet users! Unless you have been living under a rock or been stuck in MySpace, there’s this wonderful thing called Kickstarter that is helping a lot of fantastic artists accomplish their dreams in a way otherwise impossible before the internet. Through the magic of crowdsourcing, these phenomenal creators are working their tushes off to make their wildest fantasies of art a reality. How does it work? Easy! You (yes you) throw in what you can afford to projects that you think should exist in our world, tell all your friends about it by hitting the share buttons (this is very important), and once everyone has done their part, we have all been a piece of something larger than all of us!
Got it? Great! Here’s some projects that could use your skipping a trip to Starbucks to help fund.

Incredible Expeditions

Have you ever played Cards Against Humanity? That was a small kickstarter that became a huge phenomenon and is now a common name amongst almost all drinking human beings in the United States. Games are probably about as expensive to make as they are fun to play, and that’s why Liz Spain needs your help to bring this deck of cards she has been play testing for years into the public spectrum.
Yes, they have already reached their goal. This means that you can expect Incredible Expeditions to become a reality soon, but they have set stretch goals so that you can still get one of the first copies of the game and participate in it’s wonderful storytelling with your friends! Imagine hanging out and being the first of your friends to have this game, to be able to say “Oh, you can’t get it in stores yet, I only got a copy because I helped make it”. Feels pretty good, doesn’t it? $40 good? Because that’s all it costs to get the game.

Then again, Liz Spain has been cool enough to put up the .pdfs so you can print it from home to play. But you should at least throw in a couple bucks for karma points. Also Extollere’s very own Mandy McGee did the portraits for the game.

… And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Deadimage

Ready to go international? Support some music that will rock your face off? While this isn’t set up on kickstarter proper, Trail of Dead is utilizing pledgemusic.com for their similar formatting to let people pre-order their newest album as a way to ensure it gets made. They have set up their campaign to be the absolute minimum amount they need to make “Tao Part III” a reality and are so close to their goal they can almost taste it! Many of the larger-ticket items have already ‘sold out’ in a sense, but you can still pre-order the album, a signed copy, or even a vinyl version for whatever the exchange rate of pounds to dollars is (1 pound = 1.56 American Dollars). Support some cool music or even a private concert! Only 20 days left on this, go get it while there’s still stuff to grab!

Prom Queen: Midnight Veil

Alright, this one is pretty fucking cool. Prom Queen (band) wants to take the idea of the concept album to a whole new level. They are raising money to make music videos for every single one of the album’s songs to create a work of art you can watch as a film or in individual pieces. Kind of mind blowing, right? This could very well be this generation’s ‘The Wall’ in it’s own right. The great thing is that they have all of experience necessary, it’s all ready to go, all they need is…the money to do it. So close yet so far, Prom Queen has 24 more days to raise $12,000. The album itself is only $10 and the completed DVD is available for $50! That is an amazing dream that is right outside of someone’s grasp and YOU can help put it in their hands. Then again, you could spend that $10 on one more pack of cigarettes (or whatever your vice is). In case I’m not being clear: Go support this kickstarter.

Seattle Geekly Podcast

Back in my early podcasting days, the Seattle Geekly were some of the first podcasts I ever got into. Our paths crossed several times over the years, and I was genuinely sad when I heard they were shutting down their operation. Fortunately, they are so very close to reaching their goal to get the money together for a year of podcast episodes. For only $3,000 they can promise 48 episodes ranging from 45-90 minutes of pure Seattle Geeky goodness. They have only 7 days remaining on their kickstarter, but just over $500 to go! All it takes is for you to give up one trip to the coffee shop and you can have a set of buttons that you get to wear forever and show off how you brought this piece of Seattle culture back to life.

By Mandy McGee

I just wanted to let you all know that our staff writer, Morgue Anne, has a youtube channel where she talks about books once a month. Here is the latest one she posted. It is a live google hangout. Watch, Like and subscribe. 

By Morgue Anne

Enter through a large wooden door. It could be from the Hobbit, or any mythical story, perhaps one yet to be written that is all your own. Two steps forward, and it has transported you to a world of fantasy and you know you’re in for a treat.  EMP’S “Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic” contains treasured knowledge and artifacts guaranteed to please even the most casual fans of the genre, but although there is plenty  to see for newcomers, this is more than just Fantasy 101.

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Several large sculptures and some clever design work transforms what would otherwise be a bland room into an entirely new world.

“We didn’t want it to feel like a museum exhibit,” Jasen Emmons, the exhibits curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs told me, and in that goal the Experience Music Project has succeeded. Earlier last year, they divided the Science Fiction Museum into three smaller, specialized exhibits. Much of the initial object d’arts of the SFM ended up in the ‘Icons of Science Fiction’, with ‘Can’t Look Away: The Lure of Horror’ raising the bar for unique museum exhibitions by utilizing one-of-a-kind scenery and music. The only place left to go? Down into the realms of Fantasy. In a single spin of the room, you can experience a dungeon, a castle courtyard, and a magician’s woodland workshop, all in spectacular detail. Don’t let the size of the room fool you, with 3,000 square feet of magic there is plenty to see and experience in these walls. Take the time and work up the nerve to get close to Adalinda, the life size dragon locked in her dungeon cell. It doesn’t sound difficult until you’re face to face with the creature. Even knowing it is just an amazingly detailed construction of mechanics and leatherwork, I had a hard time fighting the instinct to protect myself and stay far away from the large beast. Those who are small enough can take a peek through the side tunnel to get an up-close look at her nest of eggs, but be careful! Touch the tail hanging through the bars and you may wake the dragon.

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It’s not all frighteningly realistic props. You can create your very own fantasy map and bring home a copy to hang on your wall, or at least see it projected in the “magicians studio” inside of the large, metal-scale covered tree. Inside you’ll see your fantasy map as well as the creations of others right next to a fireplace playing a continuous series of short interviews with fantasy legends such as George RR Martin, Jane Espenson, and more. As you are listening, be sure to check out the digital collection.

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“There was a lot of stuff we only got the rights for digitally” Emmons explained, as he showed me some truly amazing artifacts on the large touch screen table. This may seem like something you glance at once, but I encourage you to take the time to really look through it if you want to be amazed.  And if the interviews are impressive in short bursts, be sure to make your way over to the dragonfly film screen and watch the full feature as it’s projected onto two custom made bug-eye screens.
But the magic doesn’t end there. Almost every inch of the room is constructed with love and care to bring you into the world of Fantasy. Nothing is limited to one universe or cannon, it’s all here - from the Goblin King’s suit (yes, with a special mannequin to accommodate the extra-large pants) to the Cowardly Lion’s pelt (created from real lions). Each artifact is separated into 20 different common character archetypes. Fantastically illustrated cards resembling “humanimals” in a Tarot-style explain the paradigms at each exhibit, as well as a large poster displaying all 20 and an interactive table where you can find out which best describes you! Even concept drawings and actual artwork from Disney’s Brave and Blizzard’s World of Warcraft have made their way to the walls of Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic right alongside some original manuscript pages from The Hobbit and a first edition of Dungeons and Dragons. This is an exhibit you can bring the whole family to, or maybe just your weekly DnD campaign. My advice is to take your time, there are some detail work on costumes and props that you will never be able to see in the films and will miss if you just breeze by. This is the magic and lure of Fantasy, captured brilliantly by the Experience Music Project. They understand that it isn’t just for the Lord of the Ring fans or the Game of Thrones crazed, it’s a passion carried for life, a love for the seemingly meaningless details and largest stretch of a dragon’s wings. Pay the gold price to see this exhibit. You’ll be glad you did.

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EMP’s Fantasy: Worlds of Myths and Magic is currently open and will be ongoing. Some items such as the Tolkein manuscripts or the Iron Throne may be changed over in time to allow more viewings. You can find more information at EMPmuseum.org .