Waiting On Jamie Fraser

Jun 8, 2014 by

It’s been a while since I’ve done an update here on the new Outlander cable series from Starz, so I thought we could all do with another attempt to keep up with the Frasers.

I won’t rehash all the basics, but for those who don’t know yet  (been off the grid  for awhile, aye?), Outlander is based on a series of best-selling novels by author Diana Gabaldon.  It is a time travel/romance/historical fiction story set mostly in 18th century Scotland, and filmed almost entirely in 21st century Scotland.  I’ve done several posts about the upcoming series–click HERE, HERE and HERE to read some of my previous posts about Jamie and Claire Fraser and the world of Outlander.


The first episode of Outlander is set to debut at 9PM on August 9, 2014, and the countdown is making more than few fans crazy with excitement. Starz has just released a new trailer (above), perhaps to help keep the shouts of “Are we there YET?!” to a low roar.  There have also been additions to the “How To Speak Outlander” YouTube series, the newest being a Happy Birthday wish in Scots Gàidhlig from Sam Heughan:

In another installment, Dougal (Graham McTavish) and Colum (Gary Lewis) MacKenzie teach us how to shout the Mackenzie war cry, Tulach Àrd. It sounds a bit like “To the Car!”, which is a fitting battle cry  if you’re on the way to attend an Outlander fan gathering, but not so much if you’re a member of an ancient Highland clan about to rout the bloody English army.  Tulach Àrd is Gàidhlig for “High Hill” and refers to a mountain in the McKenzie clan heartland of Kintail, a region of the Northwest Highlands of Scotland.


Media coverage has greatly expanded in recent months, as news outlets see that global television executives are taking strongly positive views (i.e., putting their money where their mouths are) of  Starz’s  Outlander series. A recent article from TVWise predicts Outlander could be cable’s next global hit, and outlines five things driving the show’s success.  The crazy-like-a-fox  money analysts at The Motley Fool have also given a nod of approval to Outlander, noting that the show has an early August premier, which follows right on the heels of San Diego’s Comic-Con (a happy scheduling fact sure to give Outlander a tremendous publicity boost) and a large, worldwide fan base, all factors which give the show ” the ingredients to draw AMC or HBO-like numbers for an original series.”




EW’s new issue features two pages of Outlander info from Ron Moore; image source:OutlanderItaly.com


According to Outlander TV News, always a great site for the latest Outlander news, the June 13th issue of Entertainment Weekly will feature a two page spread showing side-by-side comparisons between the scene from the book and the script for the scene in the TV series. Outlander Italy, another terrific fan page, has some scans (see above) of the article, with new photos of the love triangle at the center of the plot. Wowza!

The newest book in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series

The newest book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series


The best way to pass the time til the premiere is by reading Diana Gabaldon’s newest book in the Outlander series, Written In My Own Heart’s Blood, (referred to as MOBY by fans) due out June 10, 2014. You can pre-order the book in any available format HERE on Amazon.   You can also read Diana’s thoughts about seeing–and hearing–the full Outlander Episode One for the first time by clicking HERE.



The bottom line, however, is this—we simply, frustratingly, must wait until the 9th of August.  Like Jamie Fraser himself, Starz and Ron Moore mean to take their time about it, working hard to produce an adaptation of Outlander that is faithful to the spirit of the book, full of swash and buckle, and so visually stunning it will leave us all asking for more.

As a longtime fan of Outlander, I say that’s a verra good thing to wait for, ye ken.




Places To Visit Before Going Through The Stones~ Sites I recommend to learn more or keep updated about Outlander, the book, the series and the fans:



Starz’s Outlander page

Starz’s Official Outlander  Twitter page

The Outlander Podcast--chatting about all things Outlander, and having fun doing it!

My Outlander Purgatory–believe me, they FEEL your pain!

Outlander Kitchen–historical and character-inspired recipes from Diana’s books

WESCelt’s Outlander Pinterest board

WESCelt’s Outlander Facebook album


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Rob Roy Versus Jamie Fraser: Who Wears the Kilt Best?

Jun 8, 2014 by

I thought I’d give my Facebook followers a little fun by positing this simple question: Who wears the look best–Rob Roy in a kilt or Jamie Fraser in a kilt? The comparison was between the two pictures below–Rob (Liam Neeson) first, and Jamie (Sam Heughan) in the second picture.

Well, hoo whee, did that stir up the hens!  Click HERE to read some of the comments.


Liam Neeson as Rob Roy MacGregor

Liam Neeson as Rob Roy MacGregor


Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser

Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser

For those of you who have never heard of Jamie Fraser,  some background is required.  James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, a  Highland warrior,  is the lead character in Diana Gabaldon’s novel Outlander, an historical romance set in Scotland in 1745 and right after World War II–yes, there is time travel involved, with ancient standing stones (not a blue police booth) as the portal.  Diana added  several subsequent novels to the series, which is extremely well written and chock full of historical facts and allusions.


You can buy any or all of Diana’s novels (in all formats) on my Amazon list of  her novels by clicking here.    It will be a good investment of both your time and money because the premium cable channel Starz is premiering  the first season of Outlander, the TV adaptation of the novels ( filmed on location in beautiful Scotland)  at 9PM on August 9, 2014.  Starz has been given approval for a second season  of Outlander, as well.




Think Game of Thrones, with a Scottish setting, and you’ll be close to visualizing the  upcoming series that has fans shivering with antici…pation.   Sam Heughan, a  Scottish actor, has been chosen to play the critical role of Jamie Fraser, earning him thousands of devoted–and I do mean DEVOTED–fans throughout the  social media universe.


Fans Reaction to Sam Heughan Tweeting the Word “Sassenach”


To be fair, Sam Heughan does look a bit more scruffy in his photo, but Starz has been dribbling out official photos of Jamie/Sam, releasing only a few of him in a kilt.  Here’s one that was tweeted by a Starz employee–a cut out of Jamie in a kilt, looking like he just finished a battle:




The fans are VERY clear , however, on what they want from Starz and Ron D. Moore, who’s adapting the series for TV (his wife is a die-hard Outlander fan):



Liam Neeson, from Northern Ireland, is a well-known actor, and is highly regarded for his portrayal of the famous Scottish figure,  Rob Roy MacGregor.  Liam also has a serious fan base and it’s easy (on the eyes) to see why:


Liam in the 1995 Film Rob Roy

But, clearly, there’s a new Scot in town, with dashing good looks, red hair and a kilt–in whatever shape– set on winning over more Sassenach wenches to the Fraser clan.

And in this instance, I’m thinking fans don’t want Jamie/Sam to take his time about it, aye?


Jamie Fraser; image source

Jamie Fraser; image source ©SRusso

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The Ghosts of Duntulm Castle

Apr 20, 2014 by

Atop a rocky seaside cliff on the Trotternish peninsula of Skye sits the ruins of Duntulm Castle, former seat of the Clan MacDonald of Sleat.  It is thought that an Iron age broch or dun, known as Dun Dhaibhidh, perhaps used by Viking raiders along the coast, once stood on the site, but there is no conclusive evidence.   The castle was built in the 14th or 15th century, most likely by the MacLeod clan, but by the 17th century the area was in the control of the MacDonalds, led by Sir Donald MacDonald of Sleat, “Donald Gorm Og”, the 9th chief of the clan.   The MacDonalds maintained Duntulm until 1732, when Sir Alexander MacDonald built a new residence, Monkstadt House, about 5 miles away  and abandoned the castle.   Duntulm has lain in ruins ever since, an empty shell of its former self, and peopled only by the ghosts said to haunt the castle.

Locals say there are several ghosts at Duntulm, including the specter of Hugh MacDonald (a cousin of the laird, Donald Gorm) who was starved to death in the castle’s dungeon, allegedly for coveting the lands of the clan. The gruesome tale contends Hugh went mad from lack of food and water and tried to eat his own hands before he died. His screaming ghost now walks the castle, howling his pain to whoever can hear it.


Panoramic view from Duntulm Castle. Photo by John Lees

Panoramic view from Duntulm Castle. Photo by John Lees


Another ghost story says the castle is haunted by Donald Gorm, the laird who starved Hugh MacDonald; legend has it that Donald fights with the other ghosts, perhaps just to keep things lively in the spectral realm.



The saddest ghost story involves the nursemaid to the chieftain’s son, who apparently dropped the poor babe out of a castle window onto the rocks below, killing the child. The chieftain (the story isn’t clear as to which laird was the father) was so enraged, he had the nursemaid put into a small boat and set adrift in the cold Atlantic. This woman, along with another whose husband shunned her after she was disfigured, weep as they walk the former halls of Duntulm.

Local lore says it was the combined activities of all the restless ghosts that drove the MacDonald clan to abandon the castle forever in 1732. The clan laird did scavenge stones from the castle to build the new home, an admirable bit of recycling, but one that might give Duntulm’s lively spirits a free ride to the new place. Personally, if I had to flee my home because it was so haunted, I don’t think I’d take ANY of the stones with me, no matter how much money or time it saved.

Night falls on Duntulm Castle

Night falls on Duntulm Castle Photo by Bruce Stokes


Duntulm, perched high atop  basalt cliffs beside the turbulent waves of the Atlantic,  is almost constantly buffeted by strong winds. It could be that all those spooky sounds are merely wind whistling through the stones of the castle. This is Scotland, however, a land filled with myth, mystery and the lasting echoes of its own turbulent and deadly history.   Who can say for sure that the sad, mad and angry spirits of Duntulm aren’t still walking the ruins of their former lives?



Duntulm Site Record, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland

Duntulm castle, by David Ross, Britain Express


Duntulm Castle, Wikipedia

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Cornish Fairies: The Spriggans

Apr 15, 2014 by

Cornish Fairies

“It should be understood that there are in Cornwall five varieties of the fairy family, clearly distinguishable—

1. The Small People,
2. The Spriggans,
3. Piskies, or Pigseys,
4. The Buccas, Bockles, or Knockers,
5. The Browneys….”




“The Spriggans are quite a different class of beings. In some respects they appear to be offshoots from the family of the Trolls of Sweden and Denmark.  The Spriggans are found only about the cairns, coits, or cromlechs, burrows, or detached stones, with which it is unlucky for mortals to meddle.  A correspondent writes:  “This is known, that they were a remarkably mischievous and thievish tribe.   If ever a house was robbed, a child stolen, cattle carried away, or a building demolished, it was the work of the Spriggans.   Whatever commotion took place in earth, air, or water, it was all put down as the work of these spirits.

Wherever the giants have been, there the Spriggans have been also.  It is usually considered that they are the ghosts of the giants; certainly, from many of their feats, we must suppose them to possess a giant’s strength.

The Spriggans have the charge of buried treasure.”

Popular Romances of the West of England, Robert Hunt, 1871

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Guinness and Bailey’s and Whiskey– Oh, My!

Apr 9, 2014 by


I’m always looking for yummy desert recipes that include the Holy Trinity of Irish libations–Guinness Stout, Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur, and Irish whiskey.  This rich recipe from Allrecipes.com for Chocolate Beer Cupcakes with Whiskey Filling and Irish Cream Icing--sorry, I didn’t pick the lengthy name– has it all,  plus dark chocolate,  in  a lush (no pun intended) combo sure to please the Celtic palate.


Of course, these little chocolate whiskey cakes are perfect for St Patrick’s Day, but why serve them just once a year?  A taste of the Irish “spirits” is good for the soul any time of the year.


For a a video link showing how the cupcakes are made, click HERE.



1 cup Irish stout beer (I always use Guinness stout )
1 cup butter (unsalted)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (the more cocoa content, the richer the chocolate taste–I use the 85% dark chocolate )
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon Irish whiskey, or more to taste-I always use a wee bit more ( it’ll be GRAND! ) and Jameson’s or Redbreast whiskey

1/2 cup butter, softened (unsalted)
3 cups confectioners’ sugar, or more as needed
3 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur (such as Baileys®), or more to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. I love the new parchment cupcake liners–gives the cupcakes a polished look.

3. Bring Irish stout beer and 1 cup butter to a boil in a saucepan and set aside until butter has melted, stirring occasionally. Mix in cocoa powder until smooth.
4. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a bowl until thoroughly combined.
5. Beat eggs with sour cream in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low until well combined. Slowly beat in the beer mixture, then the flour mixture; beat until the batter is smooth.
6. Divide batter between the prepared cupcake cups, filling each cup about 2/3 full.
7. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 17 minutes.
8. Cool the cupcakes completely. Cut cores out of the center of each cupcake with a sharp paring knife. Discard cores.
9. Bring cream to a simmer in a saucepan over low heat; stir in bittersweet chocolate until melted.
10. Mix in 2 tablespoons butter and Irish whiskey until butter is melted; let mixture cool to room temperature. Filling will thicken as it cools.
11. Spoon the filling into the cored cupcakes.  Set aside to cool.
12. For frosting, whip 1/2 cup butter in a bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
13. Set mixer to low speed and slowly beat in confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup at a time, until frosting is smooth and spreadable. Beat in the Irish cream liqueur; adjust thickness of frosting with more confectioners’ sugar if needed.
14. Spread frosting on filled cupcakes.  Lick the leftovers off the beaters. Well, that’s what I do.


Garnish Suggestions: cocoa powder; colored sugar; chocolate drizzle; caramel drizzle; crumbled bits of the cupcake you scooped out of the centers; cherries; coarse Demara sugar; cinnamon powder.


Recipe from Allrecipes.com, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2014 Allrecipes.com.

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For Freedom: The Declaration of Arbroath and Scotland In 2014

Mar 2, 2014 by

“…for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”

The Declaration of Arbroath, 1320

Should Scotland be an independent country?  On September 18, 2014, the Scottish people will have an opportunity to answer that seemingly simple, but actually profound, question.  Scotland will hold a major referendum that day to decide whether it should leave the United Kingdom and go it alone as sovereign nation.  Whether or not the Yes campaign succeeds–and I admit I’m strongly pro-independence— it won’t be the first time that Scotland has formally declared its desire to exist as a free, self-governing country.

The  Declaration of Arbroath is a declaration of Scottish independence in the form of a letter that was submitted to Pope John XXII, dated 6 April 1320, intended to confirm Scotland’s status as an independent, sovereign state and defending Scotland’s right to use military action when unjustly attacked.  Thought to have been written in the Arbroath Abbey by Bernard of Kilwinning, then Chancellor of Scotland and Abbot of Arbroath, with the help of King Robert, the letter was one of three written at the same time (one written by Robert the Bruce, seeking to have his excommunication by the Pope for murdering John Comyn lifted), and is the only one known to still exist.

The Declaration was taken to the papal court at Avignon, where it was looked upon favorably by the Pope; the Bruce’s excommunication, however, was not officially lifted until 1328.
The original letter was lost, and the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh has the only surviving copy.





To read the English translation of the Declaration of Arbroath, click HERE.

To read more about the Yes Campaign and the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, click HERE ; for the latest comments from Sean Connery, a strong supporter of the Yes campaign, click HERE.


Sources and more info:


National Archives of Scotland

The Scottish History Society

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Dydd Gwyl Dewi Dedwydd! Happy St David’s Day!

Feb 28, 2014 by

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Dedwydd!  Happy St David’s Day!

March 1st is the feast day of Saint David, otherwise known as Dewi Sant, a Celtic monk and bishop who became the patron saint of Wales.   In Wales, St David’s Day, or Dydd Gŵyl Dewi as it is known in Welsh, is celebrated as a national holiday, and symbols  of Welsh pride are proudly displayed throughout the country.



David was born in Wales—the only one of the four main UK saints to be born in the country he represents– near the end of the 5th century, possibly in Pembrokeshire.  He was a member of the royal Ceredigion family, the son of Sandde, Prince of Powys, and Non, daughter of a chieftain of Menevia, now the town of St David’s.   He founded a Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosin (The Vale of Roses) on the western headland of Sir Benfro, at the spot where St David’s Cathedral stands today. In addition to being the patron saint of Wales, David is also the patron saint of doves; in almost all depictions of the saint, you’ll find a dove somewhere in the image.   Legend holds that a white dove alighted on David’s shoulder while he was preaching, thus marking him as blessed by God and forever a protector of the peaceful bird.






One well-known tradition associated with St David’s day (and one of my favorites) is the wearing of daffodils, the national flower of Wales, and a colorful symbol of the return of Spring.  Daffodils supposedly grew around the walls of St David’s monastery, and the flowers are also known as cenhinen pedr, “Peter’s leeks”.   More about leeks in a moment…

Many Welsh people (Cymry) dress in traditional attire, such as the conical black hat once worn by Welsh farm women or miners’ helmets and lamps representative of Wale’s long history of mining.





Another plant worn proudly on St David’s Day is the patriotic national vegetable of Wales, the humble leek.     Leeks are wonderful cooked in soups and stews and breads, but why would you WEAR one? 

Well, the custom allegedly came about because St David ordered his soldiers (who were also probably monks) to wear leeks on their helmets as they went to battle against the pagan Saxon invaders. Or maybe it was King Cadwaladr of Gwyned who ordered the soldiers to strap on the leeks before the battle against the Saxon foes. It’s even possible that adoration of the leek pre-dates St David, stemming instead from ancient druidic practice in Wales, when the medicinal properties of leeks would have been highly valued.  According to Shakespeare, King Henry V wore a leek in honor of his Welsh heritage; soldiers in modern Welsh regiments carry on the tradition by pinning leeks pinned to their uniforms as a symbol of national pride. 

   Whatever the source of the tradition, the leek is firmly rooted in Welsh hearts and attire as their national allium.



If you don’t want to wear the leek, try cooking it in this recipe for cawl, a traditional Welsh soup served on St David’s Day. I usually add lamb to mine, but it is just as tasty without any meat.




St David has his own flag, a gold cross on a black background, which you’ll likely see flown alongside the national Welsh flag, with Y Ddraig Goch, the red dragon of Wales, emblazoned on a green and white (leek colors) background.




Want to learn the national anthem of Wales, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Old Land of Our Fathers) but worried you won’t know the correct pronunciations? This video has the lyrics for you in Welsh, phonetic Welsh and English:




Wishing you a wondeful St David’s Day, beautiful Celtic people–CYMRU AM BYTH!** WALES FOREVER!




**Cymru am Byth is pronounced KUHM-ree ahm BITH


Sources and more info about St David’s Day and Wales:

St David’s Day, Wikipedia.org

St David’s Day National Parade, stdavidsday.org


The Leek: National Emblem of Wales, Historic-uk.com  and St David

Saint David, Catholicsaints.org

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