Happy September, Mah Bonnie Lads and Lassies. Yes, we’re back!
Hope you had a nice summer doing whatever it is that makes you happiest, and that you’ve stayed safe and well.
Please help yourself to some waffles in celebration of our 14th blogiversary. Did you know the first full week of September is National Waffle Week (not to be confused with National Waffle Day on August 24, or World Waffle Day on March 25)?
When it comes to waffles, the more the merrier. We love that there are so many cool waffle makers out there to ramp up the fun. Mr Cornelius just scored this aqua mini waffler that makes yummy flowers. Pretty cute, no?
So, 14 years of blogging — 4 years at LiveJournal and 10 years here at WordPress. LJ wasn’t so much a platform for public-facing blogs as it was a water cooler environment for writers. I’m glad I started there because it enabled me to gradually find my voice in a very supportive community and connect with like-minded authors, some of whom have become good friends.
Ten years at WordPress has helped me refine the content of Alphabet Soup and expand its reach beyond the kidlitosphere. As long as there is more to learn and interesting people to “meet,” I’ll keep blogging. Besides, what better excuse to play with my toys and dishes? 🙂
So, what was my summer like?
I can pretty much sum it up in three words:
Men in Kilts
Call it the ‘Long Scot Summer.’
One evening I innocently clicked on “Outlander” in the Netflix menu and I haven’t been the same since. I was hooked from the first episode, and proceeded to binge-watch the next 66 episodes in Seasons 1-4.
Then of course I had to research the actors (all new to me) and spent hours on YouTube watching interviews, Comic Con panels, and all manner of promo videos. I had a lot to catch up on. After all, the series debuted in 2014, and I’m probably the last person on the planet to become a fan.
Which brings me to this question: YOU out there (yes, I’m talking to You), who’ve been Outlander fans these last seven years — why didn’t you TELL ME? I could have been dallying around Lallybroch and downing wee drams long before now! I guess this is what happens when you spend most of your time hanging out in Downton Abbey land. 😀
On the off chance you haven’t yet gotten your Scots on, the series is definitely worth your time. A brilliant adaptation that’s beautifully filmed and well acted with exquisite set design and costuming, it truly has something for everyone. I loved learning about Scottish history and Highland culture; what a perfect antidote for the pandemic blues!
Based on Diana Gabaldon’s novels, “Outlander” is historical romance, fantasy (time travel), and action & adventure all rolled into one. Love the strong, independent-minded female main character Claire Randall and her enduring romance with dashing Highland warrior (“King of Men”) Jamie Fraser. Although their aspirational relationship drives the series, a bevy of interesting supporting characters in both 18th century Scotland and Colonial America feature in compelling (and oftentimes heartbreaking) storylines. Brutality and tenderness coexist on an epic scale.
I was surprised to learn Gabaldon is actually American. Before she wrote the first installment of the now 9-volume series, she’d never been to Scotland or known much about Scottish history. Seems a Dr. Who character — a tall, red headed man in a kilt — initially inspired her to write that first book in the late 80s, which she claims was “just practice” to see if she could write fiction.
Seven books later (25 million copies sold) and a hugely successful television series with probably the world’s most
rabid passionate fan base ever attests to her masterful research and storytelling skills. She’s truly a reader’s writer.
Right now I’m finishing up the first book before diving into Season 5 on DVD. The ninth title in the proposed 10-book series, Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone (Delacorte Press, 2021), will be released November 23, 2021, and Season 6 of “Outlander” will premier in February 2022 on Starz.
Though I still love English accents (hello, Colin!), now I am totally besotted with Scottish accents. Yes, Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser is extremely easy on the eyes, but it’s his voice in Scottish English and Scottish Gaelic that truly slays me.
I also love Richard Rankin’s real life accent. It’s actually thicker than his character’s, and I’m endlessly fascinated by it, as I generally am at how the English language — words we’ve known all our lives — can sound so new and different with its own brand of musicality depending on who is speaking.
Did you know 86% of women deem Scottish accents overall as the sexiest, with the Glaswegian accent in particular the sexiest of all Scottish accents in the UK?
Well, Rankin is Glaswegian. Need I say more? I could listen to him talk all day. Ordinary words never sounded so wonderful. *fans self*
Swoon-worthy, right? 🙂
About those men in kilts. I hadn’t thought too much about them pre-Outlander, but now that I understand a bit more about clans and tartans, honor, bravery, and pride in heritage, I get why they set so many hearts aflutter.
After seeing all those Highlanders galloping on horseback, getting stabbed, shot, beaten and tortured on the battlefield, and trekking through coille and glen in miserable weather, I agree with those in the know who say a kilt is one of the most masculine things a man can wear.
Richard Rankin loves wearing them: he finds them “fresh,” “free,” and “breezy;” Sam Heughan wears them in real life for special occasions, admitting he owns “a fair few,” and Graham McTavish (Dougal) likes to tell the story of an aggressive fan who lay on the floor during one of his panel discussions so she could see up his kilt.
When asked why women find kilts so sexy, Caitriona Balfe, who plays Claire Randall, simply said, “Easy access.” 😀 😀 😀
In other news:
Summer Reads I Loved
1. James Herriot’s series: All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Things Wise and Wonderful, The Lord God Made Them All, Every Living Thing.
The new PBS TV series motivated me to finally read the books. Pleasantly surprised at how good the writing is (again, I’m one of the last to know). And escaping to Yorkshire is fabulous any time of the year.
2. Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park
3. When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller (2021 Newbery Medal winner)
4. The Fran Lebowitz Reader (her new Netflix series prompted me to read it)
5. Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson
6. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
7. The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard, edited by Ron Padgett
8. The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara, edited by Donald Allen
9. I is for Immigrants by Selina Alko
10. Art from Her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter by Kathy Whitehead and Shane W. Evans
11. Darling Baby by Maira Kalman
12. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonsen
13. The House by the Sea by May Sarton (reread)
14. Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other by Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish.
After becoming friends while shooting “Outlander,” Sam and Graham co-authored this delightful travel adventure. It’s based on their new Starz series, “Men in Kilts” (what else), which premiered earlier this year. Clanlands is a real hoot: personal, engaging, informative, surprising, hilarious and irresistible. The two play off each other so well. And it will make you really want to visit Scotland. When you’re hot, you’re hot!
Not Forgetting Colin
I hope my secret husband is not getting too jealous over my current Scots obsession (remember how peeved he was when I went “all Irish” on him with Aidan Turner as Poldark?).
I finally got around to seeing two of his older films that I’d been wanting to see for a long time: “Girl With a Pearl Earring” and “The Railway Man.” Loved both. He didn’t have much dialog in “Pearl,” but I swooned over all his smoldering gazes (a brilliant study in restraint). I didn’t realize “The Railway Man” was based on a true story. Hard to watch the atrocities of war, but the story was very moving and ultimately hopeful.
I think another celebratory waffle is in order since Colin will turn 61 on September 10. Sing him an early Happy Birthday song. Each year he gets better and better, and he certainly deserves this title:
Things to Look Forward To
1. Author/Illustrator Chat with Ashley Wolff (How to Help a Pumpkin Grow, Beach Lane Books, 2021).
2. Author/Illustrator Chat with Cynthia Cliff (Pie for Breakfast: Simple Baking Recipes for Kids, Prestel Junior, 2021).
3. Blog Tour: For Every Little Thing: Poems and Prayers to Celebrate the Day, selected by June Cotner and Nancy Tupper Ling, illustrated by Helen Cann (Eerdmans BFYR, 2021). Blog Tour stops here on Friday, October 8.
4. Poems by Frank O’Hara, Joe Brainard, Mary Oliver, Jack Prelutsky, Robyn Sarah, Allan Chochinov, Darren Sardelli, and more.
5. Artist/Illustrator Spotlights: Sara Pulver, Mary Fedden, Clementine Hunter, Marcella Cooper, Karen Hoepting
Picture Book Reviews:
6. Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites by Jamie Michalak and Debbi Michiko Florence, illustrated by Yuko Jones
7. We Love Pizza by Elenia Beretta
8. ABC El Salvador by Holly Ayala, illustrated by Elizabeth Gómez
9. The Fabulous Tale of Fish and Chips by Helaine Becker, illustrated by Omer Hoffmann
10. Cool Things Roundups
11. Autumn, my favorite season
12. Hosting Poetry Friday on October 22
13. Outlander foodie post
14. More Pie
Jama’s Alphabet Soup in 14 Bites
After 14 years of trying out a few different “recipes,” I’ve decided that these 14 ingredients, carefully prepped and blended by hungry bear chefs, make a flavorful soup that I’m happy to serve each week.
1. tasty picture books and recipes
2. fun, whimsy, beauty
3. china and crockery
4. tea and treats
5. lots of images
6. accessible poems that resonate
7. handmade, heartmade art
8. quirky abc books
9. playful props
10. all things British
12. boomer friendly music
13. desire to inform, entertain, and spread joy
Of course, when it comes to sustaining this blog, the most important ingredient is YOU.
Although I’ve said it many times, this definitely bears repeating: thank you for reading, following, commenting, and supporting Alphabet Soup. Your feedback is invaluable and I truly appreciate your attention and encouragement.
Welcome to the new subscribers who signed on while I was on blog break. We have plenty of room at our table for you; I think you’ll find your fellow diners are a smart, friendly, curious, literate, ravenous, generous bunch. 🙂
To all those who have started in-person learning: our best wishes for a safe, healthy, productive, non-combative, joyful school year. May the masks be with you.
We leave you with “A Sonnet Upon Sonnets” by Scotland’s National Bard, Robert Burns. Written in 1788, this was his first attempt at the form, and we love how he ruminates on the number 14. Wonder what guid auld Rabbie would have thought of “Outlander”?
A SONNET UPON SONNETS by Robert Burns Fourteen, a sonneteer thy praises sings; What magic myst’ries in that number lie! Your hen hath fourteen eggs beneath her wings That fourteen chickens to the roost may fly. Fourteen full pounds the jockey’s stone must be; His age fourteen – a horse’s prime is past. Fourteen long hours too oft the Bard must fast; Fourteen bright bumpers – bliss he ne’er must see! Before fourteen, a dozen yields the strife; Before fourteen – e’en thirteen’s strength is vain. Fourteen good years – a woman gives us life; Fourteen good men – we lose that life again. What lucubrations can be more upon it? Fourteen good measur’d verses make a sonnet.
*This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. When you purchase something using a link on this site, Jama’s Alphabet Soup receives a small referral fee at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support.
*Copyright © 2021 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.