The Thistle and Shamrock Radio Show

As I’ve said before, I’m a slave to the NPR and probably wouldn’t make it through a workday without it. Even though I listen to it for a good 40 hours a week, I was pleasantly surprised today to discover a new (to me!) radio show called the Thistle and Shamrock. Good ol NPR, now you too will help foster my obsession with all things Outlander.

Here’s the description from the home page:

One of NPR‘s most popular music programs is created in the foothills of the Scottish Highlands. When you turn your radio on, you’re there too. On The Thistle & Shamrock®, award-winning radio host Fiona Ritchie explores evolving music from Celtic roots in Europe and North America. You’ll hear well-established and newly emerging recording artists along with in-studio guests, all surveying familiar territory and leading you to more distant landscapes and genres…Thistle is your weekly bridge between the established architects of Celtic roots music and the rising generation of musicians.

If you’re interested in Celtic music, you should go to and check the list of streaming stations to find one near you, or you can listen to the latest shows on the website or download podcasts. I was excited to stumble upon this show and thought I’d pass it along :)

The Long Way Round

I’ve had quite a few crushes in my life, most being relatively short-lived, but a few have stood the test of time. My longest running (still in progress) crush is on Ewan McGregor. I first saw him in “A Life Less Ordinary” and “Trainspotting” (yep, even liked him in that film) in high school and I was instantly in love. “Big Fish” is my favorite movie of all time. He’s gorgeous and from various interviews I’ve seen and heard, I find him to be down-to-earth and hard-working. And of course, he’s Scottish. Believe it or not, long before I ever met Jamie Fraser (yes, I’m talking about him as if he’s a real person), I used to say that I was partial towards Scottish men.

A few years ago at work, my female co-workers and I were having a conversation about movie star crushes, naming our favorites and picking our “free passes” (other people do this, right? If not, it’s a fun way to pass the time…). I chose Ewan McGregor and one of the girls was like “What?! But he looks so ordinary, like you could find a Ewan McGregor look-alike walking around on any college campus!” After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I said “Well, I don’t know what college YOU went to, but please take me there… now…” (Bridget? Markita? Do you remember this? Just thinking about it is making me laugh :) )

I recently stumbled upon “The Long Way Round”, a documentary about Ewan and his best friend, Charley Boorman, riding motorcycles around the world from London to New York. It was made in 2004 and aired on TV here in America, so it must have slipped past me since I was in college and without cable at that time. I added it to my queue and didn’t really know what to expect; a movie star roughing it on a motorcycle for months? When my husband saw what I had selected, he gave a big, exasperated sigh and said “Great…you only got this so you could sit and watch Ewan McGregor for 12 hours, right?” I admitted that, of course, I had gotten it because of Ewan, but convinced him that the reviews were good enough to give it a go.  He reluctantly agreed, and after the first episode, we were both seriously surprised and HOOKED! 

The show documents everything from the initial planning stages to the welcome home party in New York. They take classes on how to ride on off-road terrain, how to perform basic medical treatment, and how to react in extreme danger/crisis situations (which is hysterical).  Once they get on the road, they meet some truly unique characters and encounter genuinely dangerous terrain, particularly in Mongolia and Russia. There were moments when I was on the edge of my seat. They stay with complete strangers that they’ve just met on the street, bravely sample indigenous food, and partake in the rituals and customs of the locals.

The relationship between Ewan and Charley is the most endearing thing I’ve seen in a while. They seem to really love each other, and if they’re just acting and it’s all a farce, then they both deserve Oscars in my opinion. Charley is hilarious and outgoing; and Ewan is incredibly charming and good-natured. Before departing, they travel to Ewan’s hometown in Scotland and visit his parents and his grandmother, and you just fall head-over-heels when you see him interact with his family.

The scenery is amazing and what sets this travel documentary apart from others is that you’re seeing it from the road, going through border checks and traversing back roads in a realistic way that you don’t normally get. Ewan and Charley are at times in giddy disbelief that they are actually living out their fantasy of being the first people to travel around the world on motorbikes. My husband loved this show, and I think it has a strong appeal to men because it’s basically the embodiment of every young boys’ dream: hitting the road with your best friend, pushing yourself to the limit, and rolling carefree to wherever the road takes you.  It’s a classic adventure and road-trip story in one.  

Another aspect of this film that I found interesting was the idea that a hugely famous movie star would be so willing to open himself up like this and literally put his life on the line. Ewan and Charley were so trusting of total strangers and stayed with some very shady people (Ewan was terrified a few times, thinking they were going to be murdered in their sleep, which was most entertaining to watch!). How insane would it be to be filling your tank up with gas and randomly bump into EWAN MCGREGOR, who just happens to need some food and a place to stay for the night? Dang…why wasn’t I living in Russia back in 2004…. Anyways, my point is that most actors in his position would have  never considered such a trip. It gave me a lot of respect for Mr. McGregor and made him seem like a real, nice, everyday person. It sounds silly, but I feel like my 14 year (?wow?) crush is validated, since he’s more than just a pretty face. (I’m saying that in contrast to my other long-time crush on David Duchovny…ugggh…I shudder at the thought…)

Apparently they enjoyed the trip so much that they made a second documentary in the same style where they ride through Africa, called “The Long Way Down.” We’ll be watching it soon. I highly recommend this series, it’s so much fun and you get to look at and listen to a sexy Scotsman for 12 hours. If you aren’t already in love with Ewan McGregor, you will be at the end of this show.

Oh yeah, there is a brief snippet in the “Extras” section, where the camera is on Ewan holding a puppy (possibly in Mongolia, judging from the background). The puppy is nipping at his beard and he’s giggling and the exchange seems to go on for a long time – it was probably only a minute or so, but long enough that my husband said “geez, how long is this going to last?” I said “I don’t know, but I could watch Ewan McGregor holding a puppy all day long…” We both got a good laugh out of that, so I thought I’d share ;) I am also going to take this opportunity to post a few gratuitous photos…


Happy Valentine’s Day!

This year for Valentine’s Day, I made my husband a “box of chocolates” ( it’s really a box of cupcakes with candies and chocolates on top, see?) and he gave me the audio versions of Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber!! The prospect of a 32 hour audio book frightens me, but I’m excited to get started. Thanks, hubs!

Casting Jamie Fraser in the Outlander Movie

The Outlander Movie. Will this mythical creature that we’ve been hearing about for so long ever actually come to fruition? Or will it forever remain a phantom rumor mill floating about the interwebs, spawning YouTube fan videos until the end of time? From what I’ve gathered, Ann Peacock (screenwriter for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Nights in Rodanthe) is currently writing the screenplay and nothing else is set in stone. 

I’ll be honest, I don’t think it’s ever going to happen, and that may be a good thing. I just don’t believe it is possible to convert this 800-some page novel into a quality 2 hour movie. I would much rather see it made into an HBO or Showtime series, with an entire season devoted to each book. That way, there would be plenty of time for character development and room for all those niggly little details that people like myself are surely to look for.

Yep, I’m one of those obnoxious people who craves a literal book-to-movie translation. I realize that the logistics of such a feat are nearly impossible, but I can’t help it; I want to hear the actors quoting directly from the book and I look for costumes and locations to be spot-on. Of course, that rarely happens and I usually end up driving my husband or fellow viewers crazy with constant jeers of “What?! That did NOT happen in the book!!” or “Arrrgg?! NO! He doesn’t do that in the book!”(You should hear me when we watch True Blood. And Twilight drove me absolutely batty.)

I realize that a movie is an interpretation of a book, and that most people don’t want to see the exact same thing on-screen as they saw in the book, because “where’s the fun in that?” as my husband would say. I can understand such logic and despite my complaints, nine times out of ten, I’m usually able to get past my prejudices and still enjoy the movie or TV show (True Blood, for example).

If I’m honest with myself, however short of my expectations the movie may fall (assuming it gets made), I will be powerless to the draw of seeing the embodiment of my favorite characters on the big screen. I will probably do a lot of criticizing and complaining, but I will not have the willpower to restrain myself from seeing it. (I saw Twilight three times in the theater…I claimed I didn’t like it, but clearly there was some discrepancy between my words and my actions…). Resistance will be futile. And doubtless, there will be girlie squeals. 

Now, onto casting. (Keep in mind that I do this all in good fun.) You all know that I love Alexander Skarsgard as Jamie Fraser, but he’s really too old to play the young Jamie from book 1. My mental images of the characters have actually grown and changed as the books have progressed, so I now find it a little odd to think about Jamie as a 23-year-old, since he’s currently 50-something in my mind. Also, of course, no actual person in existence looks like Jamie Fraser. No one could possibly live up to such a namesake! I think The Lit Connection summed up this conundrum perfectly when she said “If I ever set eyes on Jamie Fraser in real life, I think I’ll go blind…much like someone will go blind staring at the sun.”

Okay, that having been said, I have a possible casting idea for 23-year-old Jamie a la Outlander: Ben Barnes.

I must give my friend Carla credit for this idea; and when she brought it to my attention several months ago, I didn’t see it. Granted, I thought he was very attractive, but I just couldn’t see him as Jamie. She recommended that I watch the movie Dorian Gray, in which he plays the lead role, since it was the movie that first gave her the idea that he could play the part. I finally got around to watching Dorian Gray a few weeks ago, and I’ve got to say, it turned me around too.

Here is Ben’s credentials: He played Prince Caspian in The Chronicles of Narnia, so he knows how to wield a sword and ride a horse. He’s British, speaks moderate French, and has mastered the Scots accent. Physically, he’s got the slanted “cat eyes” that are so characteristic of Mr. Fraser and he looks good with long hair. One of the sex scenes in Dorian Gray leads me to believe that he could easily pull off a kilt.

Now, he obviously doesn’t have the correct coloration, but I’ve seen poorly photoshopped pics of him with blond hair and blue eyes – and it works – so I think a darker shade of red would look great on him. (Although I do think it a shame to change his natural eye color because those dark, smoldering eyes are so verra nice as is…) He is long and lean, but would definitely need to hit the gym to add some muscle since he’s quite thin. Remember, Diana G has said that Jamie is built like a basketball player, not a football player.

I have only seen the first Narnia and don’t recall Mr. Barnes, (I only remember my bitter disappointment that James McAvoy was playing the goat-man) but he’s inspired me to watch the entire series soon. In Dorian Gray, however, Ben Barnes carries the film and is flat-out gorgeous in every scene. He’s also in a movie called Easy Virtue (which I haven’t seen yet, but is on my Netflix queue as well). He’s a relative newcomer and I would argue that he’s not well-known, so that adds to my appeal, since I think it would be a shame to use big name actors in the Outlander movie (they just seem to get in the way, don’t you think?).

Jamie's always running his hands through his hair, making it stand on end...yes?

Oh, and here’s some trivia that is completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand: he was 1 of 4 finalists for the role of Edward Cullen! I found that very interesting, and I think he would make a wonderful vampire (and I daresay he would be a much better actor than our beloved Rob Pattinson).

Anyhoo, I know Ben Barnes is a wild card and a total shot in the dark, but I do think he could play our 20-something Jamie (with a little prep) in an adaptation of Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber. Have I convinced you likewise? What do you think? I’m very interested to hear your opinions! Hey, if nothing else, I’ve given you some pretty pictures to look at, right? ;) And thanks again, Carla!

More Alexander Skarsgard as Jamie Fraser!

Hello, my lovely bosom blogging buddies! I realize that I’ve been neglecting you a bit lately, but it’s been a trying week. I’ve got several Jamie Fraser posts simmering at the moment, but to tide us over until they are done, let’s enjoy this delightful picture that I discovered in my inbox this morning.  Meghan, you are not alone in your love for Alexander Skarsgard as Jamie Fraser, and many thanks for the photo!

Baby Crafts!

I’ve been a baby crafting machine lately, but I’m happy to report that the gifts for Angela’s bouncing baby boy are finally finished and delivered! And the fact that she seems to like them makes me even happier. I’ve had a lot of requests to see these goodies, so without further ado…

It’s a turtle quilt! You knew it was going to either be a turtle or a toad, right? I thought about a gnome, but I found a pattern for a turtle and it seemed a bit more quiltable.

It is so hard to take a photo of a quilt when you have very tiny bedrooms!

I have a signature baby gift: the tie-dyed onesie! Seriously people, there is nothing cuter than a baby in a tie-dyed onesie. Plus, they’re so fun to make. Here are my favorites (with some burping/nursing blankets)…

He's going to be the coolest kid on the block ;)

I also did a little inventing this time around…I made a bath apron out of a towel. I was pretty proud of myself, but since I don’t have a baby to test it out with, I have no idea how practical or effective it actually is. (Angela will have to give us a report once baby boy arrives.) Either way, I’m going to show you how to make one too. All you need is a bath towel (pre-washed and dried) and some washable ribbon.

Step 1: Cut out the neck hole.

Step 2: Fold the ribbon over the neck hole to enclose the seam, and fold the rest of the ribbon in half. Give yourself enough length to tie around the neck, and sew it up.

Step 3: Fold the towel roughly in half (close to where the waist would be when worn) and stitch about 7 inches to make the pocket. You will also need to attach ribbon (folded in half to match the neck tie) here at the sides to be tied around the waist. (If you don’t have a way of securing it around the waist, the pocket will go slack.)

And that’s it! Very simple, fast, inexpensive, easy, and (hopefully) convenient. The idea is that it will protect you from getting wet during bath time, and you will also be able to flip the bottom up to dry baby off and keep him warm while holding him. It’s also pretty much one size fits all, so it could be worn by either mom or dad.

(Just pretend there is a baby in there.)

 It seems like everyone I know is now pregnant, so I’ll probably be doing more baby crafting soon, but for now, I’m off to read…

Happy Imblog!

I’m learning a lot about the old Celtic traditions and folklore from my trusty cookbook, Celtic Folklore Cooking by Joanne Asala.  Today is Imblog, the old festival marking the reawakening of the earth. It is seen as a celebration of new life, new hope and coming fertility. The coldest parts of winter have passed (although it’s not looking that way for us in the States right now…) and it is a time to begin looking towards the bounty of spring. Milk, cheese, and dairy products are the sacred foods eaten during Imblog.

St. Bridget

This Sabbat is sacred to Brigit (also known as Brigid, Bridget or Bride), a Goddess of many things, who is closely associated with agriculture and livestock. Folklore has it that Brigit’s snake emerges from Mother Earth’s womb on this day to test the weather, and many believe that Groundhog’s Day was derived from this legend.

It’s time to start afresh, let bygones be bygones, and follow the old Irish saying, “A quarrel is like buttermilk, the more you shake it, the more sour it grows.” Go eat some Scotch Eggs or perhaps some Junkett and look forward to better days ahead :)

The cocks crow but the hens deliver the goods.~ Scottish proverb

Rebel by Bernard Cornwell

Rebel is the first book in Bernard Cornwell’s “Starbuck Chronicles,” and introduces us to Nathaniel Starbuck, a Yale seminary school drop-out from Boston who finds himself stranded in Richmond, VA the day after the attack on Fort Sumter in 1861. Tensions between the North and South are very high, and Starbuck, with his Boston accent, is detained in the street by an angry mob and accused of being a Northern spy. It doesn’t help that he also happens to be the son of the infamous Northern abolitionist, Reverand Elial Starbuck – a man who is vehemently detested in the South. In a stroke of good fortune, Nate is rescued from the tar and feathers by Washington Faulconer, a wealthy Virginian and father to Adam Faulconer, Nate’s best friend from Yale. Faulconer goads Starbuck  into admitting the embarrassing circumstances which brought him to Richmond, i.e., that he fell in love at first sight with an actress, Mademoiselle Dominique Demarest of New Orleans, who was performing in a travelling show called “The Only True and Authorized Stage Version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Complete with Real Bloodhounds.” She persuaded him to drop out of Yale and travel with the troupe, eventually asking him to commit theft and run away with her to Richmond…at which point she immediately dropped him for her true partner in crime (who was waiting to take the money).

Washington Faulconer is self-absorbed, obsessed with becoming a famous General, and very preoccupied with the oncoming war (and how he can use it to his advantage); but he takes pity on Nate, and since he is a friend of his beloved son, welcomes him into his home and offers him a position in the newly formed Faulconer Legion. Starbuck has never seen himself as a soldier, and to fight with the Confederacy means that he would be fighting against his family and friends; but his distaste for his father’s radical behavior, and the fact that he now sees himself as a rebel (in the literal sense of the word), as well as the desire to please Faulconer and thank him for the gesture of good will, cause him to step up to the challenge. The first battle of his life will also be the first major battle in the Civil War: the Battle of Manassas (or Bull Run, if you’re a Yankee).

I really enjoyed this book. It’s historically accurate with regards to the military details and the battle scenes are very descriptive and amazingly vivid. Cornwell brings to life so many of the historical names that are associated with the Civil War: Beauregard, Johnston, and Stonewall Jackson to name a few. The accuracy of the novel appeals strongly to me, but perhaps more appealing is the rich diversity of characters throughout the book. There’s Thaddeus Bird (also known as “Pecker” because of his jerky bird-like movements), who is the village schoolmaster (and hater of all children) and brother- in-law to Mr. Faulconer, who finds himself appointed a Major in the Legion because his sister wished it; Thomas Truslow is a hard-scrabble mountain man who does not want to get involved in the fight, but chooses to volunteer after he is taken aback by his instant likening to Starbuck; Sally Truslow is Thomas’s illiterate, uncouth, vixen of a daughter who uses her feminine wiles to get her way; and Ethan Ridley, the young rake who plans to marry Washington Faulconer’s daughter as a means to gain access to the family bank account.

I love the character of Starbuck – he’s an underdog, and I’m a real sucker for underdogs. He’s innocent and naive and truly torn between his oppressive religious upbringing and the newly discovered desires to experience women and war. He does a lot of dithering, but I found it to be very endearing, and I love his penchant for falling head over heels in love. He eventually finds his footing, although I think he will truly blossom as the series progresses.

Rebel is really a great read, especially if you have an interest in the Civil War. There is a lot of adventure and tons of action. There’s a love story on the horizon, but it is not prominent in this book. Diana Gabaldon listed Bernard Cornwell on her Methadone List in The Outlandish Companion, and I agree that his writing will appeal to the Outlander fan who particularly enjoys the battle and adventure aspects of DG’s books. (As a side note: Cornwell’s other series, ” The Sharpe Books,” was made into a PBS miniseries and I have seen several people drop the name of the lead actor – Sean Bean – as a potential Jamie Fraser. I think he’s probably too old at this point, but he’s worth checking out for mental imagery.)

Punchnep and a little poetry

On this day in 1759, Scotland’s most famed National Bard, Robert Burns, was born. In honor of his 252nd birthday, I decided to make some neeps and tatties. (I’ll admit, I didn’t know it was auld Robbie’s b-day until I checked in on MOP this morning, but I’ll take any chance I can get to eat “neeps” and “tatties.”) I found a recipe in my new Celtic cookbook for Punchnep, which is one of the few vegetarian-friendly Scottish dishes, and it is super easy to make…

Dice, boil, and mash 1 pound of potatoes (a.k.a. “tatties”)

Dice, boil, and mash 1 pound turnips (a.k.a. “neeps”)

Mix them together and add butter and milk (and a boiled and mashed apple, if you are adventurous), then season to taste with salt and pepper.  I also cooked up the turnip greens.

And you’ve just made Punchnep!! (Please ignore the non-Scottish grilled cheese…I was hungry.)

I don’t read much poetry; I typically get my poetic fix via music. I thought tonight would be a fitting time to share with you the lyrics of a song that always make me think of Jamie and Claire.

“The Greatest Sum” by the Avett Brothers

This and who I used to be
Don’t matter much at all to me.
To pin you down, to plant your feet’s
A far cry from my destiny.

Not even the clouds,
Not even the past,
Not even the hands of God
could hold me back from you.

Dark and lonely is the ride,
the devil always by my side.
Though no match for what lies between
the thought of you,
your trust for me.

Not even the sun,
A bullet from a gun,
No, nothing that this world could bring or
Anything someone could do
Could hold me back from you.

No count of gold placed in my hand,
The largest find,
The greatest sum.
Though some would say
It’d ease our pain,
We know that it can’t be done.

Not even the sun,
Not even the clouds.
Not even the past,
No, nothing that this world can bring or anything someone can do,
Could hold me back from you. 

Stylish Blogger Award

The rules for the Stylish Blogger Award:

  • Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award
  • Share things about yourself
  • Award recently discovered great bloggers
  • Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award

Thank you so much to Karen from Outlandish Observations for giving me the Stylish Blogger Award!! Yay! If you don’t know Karen, she is the Section Leader of Diana Gabaldon’s forum over at Compuserve and a very knowledgable Outlander devotee.  Her website is gorgeous and incredibly informative for all things Outlander. I discovered Karen’s blog in the early summer of 2010 when my obsession with the series was reaching epic proportions. None of my friends had jumped on the bandwagon yet, nor had I tapped into the wonderful online community of Outlander fanatics. Luckily, I finally got the bright idea to start Googling “Jamie Fraser” and voila! Outlandish Observations! 

Well, here are a few random tidbits about me…

1) I love gnomes. I have lots of them all around my house, but I do my best to keep them semi-hidden so as not to embarrass the hubs too much.


2) I love learning and reading about the Civil War and often research the time period in my free time.  I love visiting historic sites, homes and battlefields.

The Carnton Plantation (If you haven't read The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks, I highly recommend it!)

3) While trying to decide what to do with a Biology degree, I contemplated Zookeeping and worked briefly at a zoo in the primate department. It was a great experience and I always had fabulously entertaining stories to tell, including this doozey…One of the apes had a crush on me (apparently he had never had a keeper with reddish hair and this was a novelty for him). He made eyes at me, sang to me everyday, and “displayed” (use your imagination on that one) every chance he got. It was all fun and games until one day- actually, it was my last day there- he escaped from his habitat and chased me through the zoo. I swear. One minute, I was leaning on the rail watching him serenade me, and the next minute, HE was ON THE RAIL, about 6 inches from my face!

Fortunately for the zoo, this happened early in the morning, before the park was open; but I wish someone had been there to catch it on video because, trust me, it must have been hilarious. I was wearing thigh-high waders that were at least 2 sizes too big (which translates to me not being able to run fast at all) and since gibbons have extremely long arms (and very short legs), they hold their arms up in the air when on the ground and thus cannot run very fast. Basically, the entire chase happened in slow motion (literally), not to mention the irony of the first employee/rescuer on the scene: a groundskeeper who was terrified of all animals. The ape ended up climbing to the top of a very tall tree and refused to come down for over an hour. Many futile attempts were made to lure him down with chocolates and candy bars, but eventually I was used as bait to get him back into his enclosure. It was very frightening at the time, but I’m pretty confident that he meant me no harm, and to this day I think it remains the craziest thing that has ever happened to me.

Here's the little charmer. He's singing to me in this picture.

When I wasn't being chased by a friendly ape, I got to do fun things like paint with meerkats!

So now I must pass the award along to newly discovered (and stylish!) blogs…much like Karen, I wish I had more time to search for and follow more blogs, but here are two that I think are most worthy of an award!

A Book Blog. Period.

The name says it all- it’s all about books! I stumbled upon this blog a few months ago and I really enjoy her clever reviews.  We have similar literary tastes and I always look forward to the Wordless Wednesdays, when we get to see photos of her worldly travels. If you are in need of book ideas for future reads, check it out!

Enchanted Serenity of Period Films

This blog is very new to me…I just discovered it today! (Thanks to Carla for bringing it to my attention!) I absolutely adore a good period film with a love story and beautiful costumes. This site has lists of just such movies (so many!), as well as posts about  fashion (with gorgeous photos) and art. You will get lost in this blog and come out with 100 movies added to your Netflix queue. Check it out!