Snowy-Day Winter Cider

Snowy-Day Winter Cider Recipe — Insomnia, a snowy forecast, and lemons that needed to be used caused me to experiment with this recipe at 4 am this morning. Let me know if you like it. Portions are estimated rather than precisely calculated. I cook by instinct.

Candied ginger adds a welcome zing to this winter favorite. I used Jerry’s Nuthouse crystallized ginger. If you find you prefer more or less of a particular ingredient, you can adjust the recipe accordingly. (Cinnamon, for instance, can add an additional flavor note.) The recipe’s real magic is in the sweetness of the candied ginger combining with the tartness of the lemon. Makes 4 servings.


  • 750 -100 ml or so of apple cider, which is 3 to 4 cups.
  • lemon, preferably organic
  • 2 tablespoons of Craisins (dried cranberries can be substituted)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg (you could also use pumpkin spice)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of powdered cloves*
  • a teaspoon of dried lemon peel if you have it (I like my own or Grassia’s spice shop in Philly’s Italian Market–my favorite local spice store)
  • dash of cinnamon — optional
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of candied ginger. This provides the magic.

In a Pyrex-style saucepan, warm the apple cider on Low on the stove top.
Zest the lemon with a fine zester tool. Shave only the outer layer of the lemon; avoid pieces of white pith, which can add bitterness.

Reserve the juice of the lemon.

In a small food processor or blender, such as a Magic Bullet, add 1/4 cup of the warmed cider. Then add Craisins, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Add the lemon peel and zest (if you don’t have dried lemon peel, add the zest of another lemon. The organic lemons I used were on the small side. One enormous lemon might be enough). Pulverize the ingredients until they appear almost paste-like. You want the fruit to blend into the liquid, so add more liquid if necessary. Fine bits of ginger or Craisins may still appear, but that is okay and adds a bit of pulp. If you don’t like pulpiness in your cider, blend longer. In general we are talking seconds, not minutes. A few good pulses should do. (I found a flat blade did fine in my Magic Bullet; the kind of blade I use for grinding coffee or spices. If your grinder is used for coffee, make sure it is very clean to avoid flavor-mixing!)

Add the ginger paste back to the cider on the stove top. Add the juice of your lemon. Make sure no seeds fall into the mix. Stir until blended well. Warm through. You can let it get to a low boil, but don’t overdo it. I let mine simmer for a half hour or longer. The simmer is what seems to make the ginger combine with the lemony-ness. Stir often enough that no bits of fruit cling to the bottom of the glass pot.

Serve in your favorite mugs. Add a shot of spiced rum or whisky for even more snowy-day cheer.

Tip: You can add other dried fruit if you like. Today I am adding a few chopped organic dates to the mix. You can also try apple slices, orange slices, etc. A cinnamon stick makes a fine garnish. If you like your cider sweeter, you can add a little orange juice or honey. Experiment!

*I know a lot of cider lovers float whole cloves in their brew. I don’t like their scratchy texture. If you only have whole cloves, you can grind a few in your Magic Bullet before creating your ginger paste.

–Kelly McQuain, January 2018


Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods

                            EYES GLOWING AT THE EDGE OF THE WOODS by Laura Long#EyesGlowingAtTheEdgeOfTheWoods

Kirkus Reviews has a nice review of Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods, an anthology of writers from West Virginia that I have a few poems in. Read the review here. I’m looking forward to it out on March 1st, and it can be ordered now through Amazon or your favorite local bookstore.

Kudos to editors Laura Long and Doug Van Gundy.


Doe, A Deer, A Female Deer: The Spirit of Mother Christmas

I’m sharing here an interesting take on the feminine origin of many Christmas and Yuletide customs. –Kelly

Oh wondrous headed doe… Amongst its horns it carries the light of the blessed sun…” Hungarian Christmas Folk Song Long before Santa charioted his flying steeds across our mythical skies, it w…

Source: Doe, A Deer, A Female Deer: The Spirit of Mother Christmas


Nice Mention in The Oberlin Review

A while back I posted about the book cover I drew for Kazim Ali’s Uncle Sharif’s Life in Music. Today I saw an interview with Kazim in which he gives a nice shout-out about the cover. The book is a fun, experimental mixture of stories both innocent and adult. Read the interview here.


Current projects, which are keeping me from posting much these days, include a short satirical comic about Trump’s election, some new poems, and a series of paintings I hope to blog about soon.

If you are looking for small press items or handmade goods, check out the Small Press Faire in Philadelphia coming up Dec. 3rd. I’ll be there, unofficially. Info here.



How Do We Pollinate Identity? The Empathy Machine, Part 2

MonsterPullOutGanesh, Cthulhu, Keats and honeybees! Sherman Alexie, Kenneth Goldsmith, Vanessa Place, and the Muppets!  What can this strange mash-up teach us about the pitfalls and triumphs of poetry and art-making? Part two of my comix essay, The Empathy Machine, is out now. Click here! It’s a hybrid graphic narrative I’ve worked on for Cleaver Magazine, a meditation on art-making, poetics, identity and appropriation. There’s even a board game you can play. You can read last fall’s part 1 of the project at the link below if you missed it (the Cleaver editors nominated it to Best American Essays!)
Make sure to link to the cartoon version. Cleaver published a text version as well for the visually impaired and for search engines that can’t (yet?) read comix.

Are Santa and Sinterklaas the same character?

Last year I was part of a Facebook discussion thread where JH Cové, a Dutch anthropologist, took to task someone who equated the two: He wrote, “The Dutch Sinterklaas, or Sint Nicolaas, has nothing to do with Christmas. It is celebrated on Dec. 5th [the20141228-192559-69959348.jpg eve of St. Nicholas’s Feast Day], after which he goes back to Spain, and Christmas preparations can begin all over Holland. He’s got his own songs, his own history (from Myra, Turkey, correct), and, these days, is rivaled by Santa Claus (or Father Christmas or Papa Noel). I’m sure there are anthropologists that find connections somewhere—and there is a resemblance in the fact that they both use chimneys (who came up with that first?), even though in Holland Santa Claus doesn’t!—but take it from this Dutch anthropologist, they’re very different.”


A lot of strong Dutch pride there. My take? Santa and Sinterklaas both share the same Catholic saint as their inspiration, and Santa derives from the Dutch version via the Dutch immigrants arriving in the New York area in the 1600/1700s. Without Sinterklaas, and perhaps without Father Christmas from England, there would be no modern Santa, since he is essentially a mash-up of the two. It’s true, Sinterklaas and Santa have markedly different personalities in the way they are portrayed. I think of them as cousins, or brothers in the Yuletide spirit.

Someone else in the conversation brought up the Dutch customs surrounding the black men mentioned in the David Sedaris story “Six to Eight Black Men” (from Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim). Those characters are Sinterklaas’s Zwarte Piet companions, and they sometimes play a role similar to Santa’s elves. At other times, as in the Sedaris story, they play a “bad cop” role to Sinterklaas’s good cop. Like Krampus, the Zwarte Piet characters are sometimes said to carry bad children off. In the Sedaris essay, that’s back to Spain, where Sinterklaas is said to live. Unlike his cousin, Santa, who lives at the North Pole. I’d say Sinterklaas has the better deal there.

Getty images.

Most of the time the Zwarte Piet companions play the role of cheerful assistants, but they are not without controversy (for evidence, see the article below from a 2014 issue of The Economist).. As the Dutch become more racially diverse,  people are beginning to question the use of black-face as a means for white people to portray the diminutive imp, whose roots lie in the history of the Moors conquest of Europe. Some people now make up new stories (the black is ash from chimney soot) while others have turned to using  face paint in a variety of colors–red, blue, green etc, making the new Piets as colorful as a bag of Skittles.


For more info on KRAMPUS, the star of a new horror film this year, check out this post. It tells how folks in Philadelphia are celebrating with an array of European characters and traditions.

For more on holiday folklore, join the Krampuslauf Philly Folklore group at

ALSO, if you live near Philadelphia and wish to take part in this year’s fun Alpine Christmas tradition, check out the Krampuslauf Parade of Spirits website.
Event: Krampuslauf Philadelphia 2015
Sat. Dec. 12, 3 pm. Parade is usually at dusk.
Venue: Liberty Lands Park
913-961 N 3rd St, Philadelphia, US



Are your children SAFE this Christmas season?

20141230-025153-10313930.jpgChristmas is a very dangerous time of year in the land of the Weird: Bat Boy biting Santa, and not even Mr. Fuzzy Wuzzy’s heartwarming Christmas message is able to make all well and good again. Now the Elf on the Shelf is offering up his secrets to Wikileaks! Will American children ever be safe again?

A Holiday Special

First, I would like to thank Mr. Julian Assange for giving me the opportunity to make these crimes public. I would also like to affirm that this is not my story alone. I, Snickerdoodle Snowcone, speak not only for myself, but on behalf of every other elf ever forced into espionage by the egomaniacal despot the world so endearingly refers to as Santa Claus.

Yes, we have been spying on you, boys and girls, at the strong-armed behest of our big red Boss. That’s what he likes to be called–The Boss–like he’s some sort of mafioso heavyweight instead of an aging toy peddler suffering from severe obesity and a bad case of the sugars.

Jolly? Not so much anymore. The hand tools The Boss once taught us elves to use now gather dust in his crumbling workshop. Manufacturing has been outsourced to China and other countries, many with lax labor laws where children no older than yourselves work like drones to grind out petty playthings. They sing no carols. Their hands do not move with the happy glee that mine once did. Don’t be surprised if there is a little blood in your fashion doll’s bright red lipstick. I can guarantee you the sheen on her hair is laced with tears.

The Boss has sold out, you see. His heart has become as hardened as his arteries…. Read the rest of the startling truth by clicking here!

#Batboy #CIA #ChildSafety #ElfOnTheShelf #CleaverMagazine