Tuesday, October 31, 2017

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!


Happy Halloween!

Be it Halloween or Samhain or All Hallow's Eve, have a wonderful time, stay safe, don't run up the stairs if an ax wielding monster comes through the front door and for crying out loud, DON'T GO OUT AFTER MIDNIGHT.

You're going to go out after midnight, aren't you. *sigh* I warned you...

xo

Friday, October 27, 2017

Pumpkin Spice Poke Cake

From the Namaste Foods Website

I help out with the social media accounts at work and this recipe came across my radar one afternoon while I was looking for something to highlight for our grocery department (I work at a natural foods/herb shop). It sounded so fantastic, I went home and made it for a get together that very weekend. Needless to say, it was a hit! I made it a second time putting the batter into a cupcake pan rather than a sheet cake and it was still delicious. If you want all the decadence this recipe promises, go for the sheet cake. It allows for more holes to be poked and far more caramel to be drizzled. If you're looking for something a bit lighter, do the cupcakes. You can still drizzle on the caramel and whipped cream but the portions will be a bit more controlled and you'll be prevented from using the entire jar of caramel sauce in one go!

* * *
by Namaste Foods
[sarky comments in red by me]

Ingredients: 

1 box Namaste Foods Spice Cake Mix
1- 15 oz can pumpkin puree 
1- 10 oz jar gluten free caramel - why caramel would have gluten in it I have no idea...
2 cups whipped cream or 8 oz container whipped topping 
You could whip this up yourself, but I went the easy way out and bought some whipped topping already made. For extra deliciousness, and to make the cake dairy free as well as gluten free, go for the coconut milk whipped topping. Oh my heck is it good! Oh, and I totally didn't measure this out. I used the whole container :)
Pumpkin pie spice for garnish 
1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional) 

Directions: 

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line 13" x 9" pan with parchment paper or spray with non-stick spray. 
2. Combine pumpkin with Spice Cake Mix in large bowl until smooth. Batter will be very thick. Don't forget to add all ingredients listed on the box. This is common sense, but the recipe didn't state it and for a moment I thought I was to just mix the cake mix with the pumpkin puree. Glad I didn't!
3. Spread batter into pan. Bake for 27 to 31 minutes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let cool completely. 
This part is important. That's why it's here. Granted, I was in a hurry, but to put the whipped cream on before it's completely cool is to end up with a weird, frothy mess on top of the cake instead of the lovely, whipped, caramel-y drizzled goodness I left the house with. Alas, it wasn't pretty but it sure did taste amazing!
4. Using the back end of a wooden spoon, poke holes all over top of cake. Pour caramel over holes, but reserve some to drizzle on top. 
5. Spread whipped cream or topping evenly over top. Drizzle with remaining caramel. Sprinkle with pecans (if using). Can be chilled before serving. Variations Also works well using Vanilla Cake Mix.

Do give this a try! It would be perfect for a Halloween party or for the upcoming Thanksgiving festivities. Or for the hell of it. It's CAKE! Enjoy!

Yours in Dark Chocolate,
Jen xo

PS: I'll be out of town for the next few days. We're headed up to the mountains for a good, old, woodland Halloween! I can't wait. Taking along "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon" by Stephen King. Seemed appropriate as it's set in the woods and the main character listens to a broadcast of a baseball game. It IS World Series Time, you know. [Go Dodgers!]

Thursday, October 26, 2017

To the Woods

I'm looking for something lost, something I left behind ages ago. It was good riddance, something to be remembered as "what once was" but nothing more. It certainly wasn't anything I planned on resurrecting.

The ocean's call brought us here, tugged us seaward and we've settled nicely, eager to put down roots but roots have a hard time in sandy soil. I feel another tug, now, a tug North, a tug to what once was.

A little girl lost.

She's in the woods, down an overgrown path, somewhere between memory and fantasy. There are poplars and mountain ash, pines and large rocks surrounding. There's a tree stump - or is it a witch? - covered with moss. There are leaves that toss from the heads of sweet gums and the bones of Rhododendron tangled off to the left. She left the cabin in the early afternoon with a pad and a pen and went to follow some footsteps and forgot to come back.

Rather she lost her way.

The Appalachian Mountains are as much a part of me as my blood and skin. It's where my people come from, where my parents returned to, year after year, and where I learned the shivering wonder of ghost stories. It's where I first heard things creeping about in the woods at night, where I honestly first believed in monsters, and where I've found myself returning in my mind for those monsters, those ghosts, and those overgrown trails.

The tree trunk is still there, in my mind, and though I'm not going to the exact same stretch of woods, I am going where the Appalachians reach deep to the soul of the Earth and where She whispers secrets to those brave enough to sit still, on that old, moss covered stump, and listen.

Or maybe it is a witch. I should be careful where I sit.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Peering into the Dark

When I was little, I would wake up in the middle of the night and have to go to the bathroom. It was only across the hall, not too far away. All I had to do was scoot inside the door, flick on the light, and when finished, cross back to the safety of my room.

But I always had to look down the hall into the rest of the house.

I grew up in a single story, three bedroom, one bath home. If you stood in the hall you could see straight through the kitchen to the eat-in area, down the single step and into the living room to the side door. The street light outside shone in, eerie and blue, and the light over the sink created a pocket of light in the kitchen. Still the shadows lurked and I imagined all kinds of strange and fearsome things.

The dark house, still and quiet save for the pops and creaks of old boards settling, frightened me. I just knew that one night I'd see a pair of glowing eyes looking back at me, see a shadow, a form, where there shouldn't be one. I'd run back to my room and leap under my covers because, as we all know, the ghosts can't touch you if you're under the sheets.

Still...

... the darkness tempted me. I was curious. What could be there? What might be in the den after everyone went to bed? Once, either with friends or just my sister, we dared each other to walk around the house in the dark. You weren't allowed to run, no matter how scared you got. No matter what you might see. I remember taking it slowly, cautiously, convinced something would move, something would appear. It didn't and I returned to my bedroom unscathed. But I still wondered "What if?"

There's delight in that chill of "What if?". I'm always fascinated by the Gothic ghost stories that venture further through the doors of "What if?" than many modern writers. There's too much revealed in horror movies today, too much blood, guts and gore. That's not why I write or read horror. I enjoy the tantalizing wonder at what could be behind a locked door, what might be hiding in the attic, the basement, the old shed out back of the property. I long to brave the moonless night and see what's over that next ridge, what's around that next curve in the road. The woods beckon, the ocean sings, the lane that runs in front of my house whispers, "There's more if you're brave enough to search."

And still I rush past the dark living room. Still I hurry from bedroom to bathroom to kitchen. Still I get a little trill of excitement and fear as I pad quickly back to bed to cover up and pretend I didn't just hear that unfamiliar creak.

Because, you know, the ghosts can't touch you if you're under the sheets.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Did the Irish "Invent" Halloween?

Image result for trick or treat
Photo found HERE

Most of us grew up anticipating a fun costume and loads of candy come October 31. My sister and I would usually make our costumes by putting things together from what we already had or picking up a few accessories to complete an outfit. While we didn't live in one of those perfect, 1980's neighborhoods with the cul-de-sac and hundreds of kids, we did go around to the houses of people we knew and collect a good amount of tooth enamel compromising goodies.

But did you know that what we know as Halloween isn't the original idea? October 31 was the ancient Celtic New Year and it was known as Samhain (pronounced "SAH-win" or "SOW-win"). The Celts saw the year divided into two halves: the light half which was Summer and the dark half which was Winter. The believed that the veil between our world and the world of the spirits was thinnest on this night. They would dress in costumes to confuse any malevolent spirits and to avoid capture by them.

Modern life tends to gloss over the roots of things. We take for granted a lot that were created by people who lived lives much more in tune with nature, who had to fight against elements and marauding armies. But here we have a festival that was passed down as a day to honor those who have passed on, to remember that we aren't alone in this world. All Hallow's Eve, Halloween, Samhain - whatever you call it, it's here for far more than dressing up as a super hero and getting pillowcases full of candy for free. Those things aren't bad; not at all. It's fun! I love dressing up and spending the day as something other than my everyday self. It's almost like an excuse to let you inside personality come out and play without any fear of recrimination or judgement. The ghost stories, though, have always hinted at a deeper meaning, a more profound reason behind the masks and bobbing for apples.

The Celts lived with nature. They honored it, respected it and tried to understand it's ebb and flow, it's undulations. They spent time listening, trying to discern the secrets of the woods, the waters, the fields. This connection led them to an awareness of the spiritual. They communicated it the best they could: through fairy tales and legends that hold far more truth than modern life gives them credit for. Everything held an element of the spiritual, the supernatural and they recognized that and respected it. Halloween wasn't necessarily about being afraid of goblins and spooks; the Celts had plenty of those occupying their normal, every day lives! No, Samhain and the following All Saint's Day was more about acknowledging the spirits of the departed, about remembering those who passed on over the past year, and honoring them. And, also, appeasing them by leaving out bits of bread and cheese and milk, treats that would show them you hadn't forgotten and they needn't haunt you for another year.

Those spirits were mostly benign: Grandpa or Great Aunt Essie. Still, what about those that DID scare them? The spirits that DID conjure up the ghouls and spirits we still, today, shiver about under our quilts?

Over the next few posts, I'll be focusing on the Ghosts, Fairies and Monsters of the Celtic myths. Think of it as a primer to Irish spirits. This will in no way be an exhaustive collection but a starting point, something to make Halloween a little more interesting, a little more authentic.

I hope you enjoy the legends and beasties of the Emerald Isle. If they spark any ideas for you, give them a try and see where they lead! There's a lot of stories and legends yet to be told.

Happy Halloween,
Jen

References:
Irish Culture & Customs: How the Irish Invented Halloween , An Irish Halloween &
Samhain the Irish New Year
Irish Genealogy Tool-Kit: The Origin of Halloween Lies in Celtic Ireland
Irish Central: Spookiest Ancient Irish Myths and Legends Surrounding Halloween

Monday, October 9, 2017

Welcome to the Dark Side

This blog has been sitting here for a couple of years now, waiting, biding its time. Thankfully, something someone said to me the other day sparked it's revival and helped me to put down the last puzzle piece.

When I first had the idea for this blog I knew that I wanted to incorporate horror and ghost stories with the lighthearted twist of baking. You can't be dark all the time and, well, you do need something help fuel those sleepless nights spent listening for footsteps on the stairs. A coworker caught me by surprise one day by saying he'd heard that I write horror. Then he asked if I had a website and I faltered. I did have a blog, I told him, but it wasn't anything to do with my writing of horror or my love of ghost stories and folklore. I went back to entering inventory but the question lingered.

Then I took a bit of a break and scanned Instagram. I scrolled past an artist's work and, again, I was reminded of this little blog and what I'd originally planned for it. The artist focuses on Irish myths and I felt a delicious little shudder when I mentioned in a comment one of my favorite Irish myths that I've been exploring the past couple of years for a story idea.

Hmm...

The last spark that ignited the resurrection of this blog was a conversation with one of my cousins. She asked about my story that was published last year and, in doing so, asked if I'd had anything else published. I laughed. I had; a cookie recipe in a horror magazine. Yes, you read that right. It all came back to me : The Dark Side Bakery. A place to collect folklore and ghost stories, write about my own writing ventures, and post recipes and experiments into the realm of gluten free baking.

And here I am, at the beginning of October, putting the finishing touches on the beginnings on this project. What better month to start a spooky blog, get back into my love of creepy folklore, and dig out my pots and pans and whip up something sweet and ooey-gooey to munch on while doing edits on my almost-complete first horror novel?

I so very happy to have you here and I hope you'll enjoy wandering the back alleys, abandoned houses, castle walls, library attics and museum basements with me. Please feel free to email me at jstantonchandler (at) gmail (dot) com or leave me a message on any post to share any scary stories you may dig up in your own research.

And, by all means, grab yourself another cookie, warm up your coffee, and let's gather by the fireplace for some story telling. There's a storm blowing in and you don't want to be caught out in it.

"It was a dark and stormy night...."


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Good things are in store...

... just hang tight!

I'm busy working on a new story, Dear Reader. It crept in when I least expected it and it has no plan whatsoever. Each time I sit down to write, it gives me just a glimmer of what's to come and I'm learning the plot with each word I type.

I'm excited to share more! Just...not yet.


Monday, November 30, 2015

Well, hello there!

I'm not sure if anyone is reading this little cyber chronicle yet, but if you are, I apologize for the looooong delay in posts! I am unashamed to say that life got in the way, as it should. Life is more important than blogging. I hope you all know that.

As for life, it has been good! Thanksgiving was quiet, relaxing, populated by too much food, decorating the bungalow for Christmas, and punctuated with a trip to the beach yesterday evening. Though we worked Friday, it still seemed like a long (and much needed) weekend. I hope your weekend was fantastic and your Thanksgiving (if you celebrated) was filled with, well, giving thanks.

Not much has been happening in the realm of speculative fiction. My other projects have taken up all my available time but for good reasons. For one, they are the beginnings of some Christmas gifts and I need to have them all completed by the 23rd. For another, they have really shed light on the whether-tos and the why-fors that I craft in the first place. I know, sounds strange and mysterious, eh? Well, trust me, I'll talk more about THAT come January.

For now, I just want to bask in the season of GIVING. That's how I like to view Thanksgiving through New Year's Day. A time to give of our time, our talents, ourselves. A time to spend time with those that mean the most to us. A time to let them know we are thankful.

I believe in my last post I mentioned my participation in NaNoWriMo. Ha! It was a valiant effort but, alas, I failed to produce a NaNo novel again this year. But I don't mind. The passion, the drive, and the time weren't there. And I am unashamed to say I didn't win. No worries. I now know what I want to devote my writing time to and it is NOT the novel I'd planned for NaNo! Yay decisions!!

More on that in January too :D

I did read a wonderful story by Susan Hill. I'm sure you've heard of it, maybe even seen the movie which, of course, I missed. "The Woman in Black" is a beautifully written gothic tale that really does send goose-pimples up your spine. It was chilling without causing insomnia and the ending was SUPERB! It was one of those stories that you just know there's something else coming but you don't know what. And then Hill hits you with the final blow. I'm pretty sure I gasped out loud and may have even yelled "NO!" at least once. Even if you've seen the movie (which I heard wasn't all that grand), don't let that dissuade you from picking up a copy of the original. The prose is lovely and Hill really grabs you and pulls you in. It's atmospheric and perfect for a cold, rainy night. I read it in two days so it won't take up too much of your holiday time!

Happy reading, writing, crafting, and merry making!


Thursday, November 5, 2015

National Novel Writers Month and Me


Yep. It's official. I am participating in NaNoWriMo.

However, it's not a conventional participation. This year I decided to work on my own terms, see what I come up with.

I'm in the middle of a nonfiction piece at the moment and it's begging to be finished by the first of the year. Which of course means the second DRAFT wants to be finished by the first of the year and will be edited throughout the rest of said year!

I don't mind being on the rim of NaNo. I find it much more comfortable there than in the thick of things. Long ago, I abandoned that frantic search for Best Seller-dom. Sure, I'd LOVE one of my novels to make that lovely list. Who wouldn't? But right now, I'm focusing on enjoying the process, on dipping my toes back into the murky, mysterious waters of writing and seeking knowledge from those who have gone before. I suppose you could say, in returning to my roots, I've found a lot I don't know and a lot I want to explore.

Here's to all you WriMos out there! Best of luck to you in writing and constructing new worlds. Hmm, I wonder if we should abandon "good luck" in favor of something more theatrical. Like "break a pencil!"

Cheers,

Friday, March 20, 2015

Testing, testing...

Ah ha!

Signs of life. Or at least, partial life. Right now, this is just an experiment. I hope it will turn into something more. I need a place to wander around the blog-verse and collect all the nerdy finery I can digest! Plus, it's been a long time since I've really sat and ruminated over the need for darkness in story, the true roll of a villain, and what speculative fiction really means. Bonus: I need an excuse to bake and a place to show off those mad kitchen skills!

So...hooray new blog! Hooray nerd-dom! And hooray geekery!

Here's to all those who love all things nerdy,

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

Happy Halloween! Be it Halloween or Samhain or All Hallow's Eve, have a wonderful time, stay safe, don't run up the stairs ...