It’s the most wonderful time of the year

I found the most magnificent pillow at World Market today.

Pillow with grave robbing scene from Frankenstein
That, my friends, is a throw pillow depicting the grave robbing scene in the original Frankenstein film.  October is the only time of year that I can really shop for home decor.

Our apartment is a bit of a wreck at the moment, filled to brimming with Halloween projects in progress, and bags upon bags of paper bats. I can’t believe our party is a week from tonight.

The temperature has finally dropped a bit here in Central Texas.  The mornings are crisp and the crow that winters in our neighborhood has been making a racket. 

This means that the time of baking experimental casseroles is again upon us.  The inaugural event was last night, utterly destroying my kitchen for the sake of a rather bland attempt at cheese sauce that desperately needed both salt and a completely different recipe.  I call it Vegetable Mac & Cheese of Failure.

Happily, we found that a liberal dusting of Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning salvaged the grayish concoction.  We will be subsisting on the casserole for most of the weekend.

Veggie mac and cheese
Tonight we are heading to SCARE for a Cure, one of the best haunted houses in Texas.  It’s a fantastic haunt; nearly an hour long walk through of a scripted story that involves puzzle rooms, sacrificing someone in your group, and (hopefully) defeating the boss at the end.  It’s a Halloween tradition, we go every October.  And we always get covered in stage blood.

Tomorrow is a Halloween party prop-building work day; we lure people in with promises of pizza, then give them cardboard, paint, and vague instructions.  Cityscapes are not a fast build. Nor is an atmospheric representation of the Adam West Bat Cave.

If you need some Halloween horror in your reading queue this week, I recommend any of Thomas Ligotti’s short stories. I recently picked up Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe, anthologies of his works in the 1980’s. Imagine someone who consumed Lovecraft as an influence, and then surpassed him. Lovely, twisted stuff.

I’m going to read another of his stories before we head out to the haunt.  Right here on the couch with my amazing new pillow.

Morning Coffee and Mutilating Corpses

Coffee and r

The lady and her monsters book coverI’m in the middle of a deliciously macabre book, The Lady and Her Monsters by Roseanne Montillo. It’s all true stories of real 18th century mad scientists electrifying corpses, and how they were connected to Mary Shelley. It’s full of other wonderful tidbits as well.

I did a bit of scholarship on the Romantics at large and Frankenstein in particular during my ill-spent youth. I might have kept at it for hilarity’s sake if I’d known that Samuel Taylor Coleridge and other poets were thoroughly abusing their friendship with scientist Sir Humphrey Davy (future president of the Royal Society) to get high on nitrous oxide. All the time.

I want to go back through Coleridge’s work and try to guess which were written on cocaine, and which could be blamed on whippets.

There’s an entire chapter dedicated to the city of Bologna, Italy, and the Teatro Animatomica. Apparently, during the 18th century the entire city was really, really into cutting up corpses for “science.” Criminals were executed at a disturbing rate to give the anatomists material for their shows at these theaters built specifically to let everyone watch university professors and their assistants dissect corpses. It was a major source of entertainment for aristocracy and peasants alike, and was even unofficially part of Carnivale.

Many of those old theaters still exist, and I want to see them. I may be advocating for a trip to Bologna next year.

In addition to being fascinating, The Lady and Her Monsters has breathed new life into a side project I’ve been picking at all year. There are not enough stories about lady mad scientists out there, and I’d like to do something about it. I have a goal to have something ready for public consumption by Christmas.

New big Budget Frankenstein Movie From 20th Century Fox this Thanksgiving

An actual twist on the classic Frankenstein story from Igor’s perspective?  Starring Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy? Yes, I think I’d like some of that, please.

Coming out this Thanksgiving, Twentieth Century Fox tries to plant their own flag on new imaginings of the Frankenstein mythos, beating Universal’s watered down reboot plans by years.  This looks like it will be a very fun ride.   Watch the trailer below.

Home Alone, Just Me and Science

I had to run back to the store Sunday night to grab some things that Instacart couldn’t find (more on that in another post), and happened upon a mountain of blackberry pints on sale for a dollar. I grabbed one impulsively without a plan (bad habit), and it sat on my counter for about 48 hours.

On that same trip I made another impulse buy, a bag of chia seeds, after reading about all the bizarre things they can do that help with vegan substitutes.  On the back of the bag was a recipe for blueberry jam, and it occurred to me that adapting it to my pint of blackberries would be pretty straightforward.

Tonight, finding myself home alone while Reed is at a corporate dinner, I did some science.

Blackberry pints were on sale. Making some jam. #cooking #madefromscratch

A post shared by Jennifer Barnes (@cheeseandglory) on

Boiling blackberries are fascinating to watch.  They just keep rotating like that, looking like horrible little monster eggs full of some unholy substance, or maybe recently infused with a blood sacrifice. I can’t look away.

The recipe I played with is simple. Throw the berries in a saucepan with some agave nectar on medium heat for about five minutes, then toss in the chia seeds and let that simmer until thick and gooey, about 15 minutes. Take off the heat, stir in some vanilla, and allow it cool.

It’s pretty tasty for a science experiment, though the Ugly Food factor has not been mitigated:

chiajamcloseup

Chia seeds are so weird. All that liquid boiled down into this jammy stuff in about ten minutes after I added the seeds.  No gelatin, just stuff that came from plants. I’ve been reading on how you can grind them up in a coffee grinder, then chill for a bit, and that turns them into the most perfect egg replacer for baking, ever.

I may be trying to bake some quick bread this weekend. If I can turn my chocolate pumpkin bread vegan with no qualitative loss, then there will be stopping me.

Muahaha…

Addendum:

ladyfrankenstein2In the course of looking for silly supplemental photos, I learned about a horrible 1971 Italian horror film called La Figlia di Frankenstein (Lady Frankenstein). Based on what Google Image Search is kicking up, it was porntastic, in the tradition of Italian horror.  The Wikipedia article’s plot summary gives the impression that it’s a combination of the first four films of the original Frankenstein franchise, with a female main character using her sexuality as a power play over the men.

I’m going to have to find this movie, wow.