Regarding Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon

Regarding Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon

“My Outlander Thing” by Gavin McNett is a great article about how Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series defies genre pigeon-holing.  While these books may not be everyone’s “cup of tea”, don’t disregard them simply because some publisher/bookstore decided to label them romantic fiction.  It is a fiction book with its fair share of romance to be sure, but there is so much more.  


Things I Want to Do Someday: A List

The following is a list of things that I would like to do someday.  Some are more attainable or likely than others.  You can decide for yourself which ones those are.  These aren’t meant to be the “if I were rich” dreams, and although some of them definitely require some funds, they are all relatively “do-able”.

  1. Travel to Scotland.  I love all things Scotland, especially, as noted before, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.  I would actually want to tour some of the locations in the book as part of my visit.  Included destinations on this trip would be Wales, Ireland Cornwall, and now that someone from Jersey read one of my posts, I need to go there too.  And Guernsey.
  2. I want to keep chickens.  Maybe 5-6, possibly co-parenting with a good friend and neighbor.  This would be for eggs–not meat.  Murphy the Giant Puppy would need to grow up a bit, and that garage needs finishing first.
  3. I want to learn how to crochet.  I love knitting, and it is my preferred “needle craft”, however, there are just some things you can make better/easier with a crochet hook, like baskets.  I even have a friend willing to teach me.
  4. I want to spin my dog’s fur and knit with it.  This is actually a thing–it’s called chiengora.  I mean, my goodness–why waste all of that soft, soft fur?  I would settle for just spinning; I have a friend who knows how and I bet I could get her to teach me.
  5. I would like to write a book.  Probably set in Scotland.  Probably with bodices being ripped and broody Highlanders in kilts.
  6. I want to get my PhD.  Not sure in what just yet.  My first choices would be psychology or history, but I would need master’s degrees in those fields first.  My master’s is in education administration–but I can’t really picture myself as an administrator.
  7. I want to spend a week at a spa–the type that are for pampering, wellness, and relaxation.
  8. I want to go on a real honeymoon with my husband–not one the consists of driving home from our wedding in 90+ degree weather with the heater blasting so as not to overheat the car.  One that does not include being left as collateral with two puppies at a gas station in Garryowen, MT because our bank account was overdrawn and we had already filled up the tank.  My husband had to drive down the road to get money out of an ATM at a casino.  The two gentlemen working there were so kind, though…they even provided a bowl of water for my pups while I waited.
  9. I would like to vacation with my sisters–to somewhere like the barrier islands of South Carolina, or on Lake Michigan.  Just rent a cottage or beach house for a few days or a week.
  10. I would like to find a physical activity that becomes as necessary to me a breathing.  One that I would actually do on vacation.  Yoga?  Dance?  Clogging?  Running (ha!)? I don’t know.  All I know is that none of my attempts thus far have yielded long-term commitment.  Knitting doesn’t burn too many calories.  Gardening does, but is very seasonal.
  11. I’d like to meet the President.  When I went to Washington DC with other newly Nationally Board Certified teachers, we thought there might be a chance.  I mean, he was in town, and we were at the White House.  It would have been a great demonstration of his commitment to education had he just stuck his head in the room and said, “Hi!  Love you guys!”.  We would have been happy.  Arne Duncan was cool, but it wasn’t the same.  That was probably the only opportunity I will ever have in my life to meet a president.  Sigh.

Arne Duncan is very tall.

There will likely be a Part Deux of this list, too.

A Combination of Two of my Favorite Things: Knitting and Diana Gabaldon

Cover of "Drums of Autumn (Outlander)"

Cover of Drums of Autumn (Outlander)

In college, I discovered a series of books by Diana Gabaldon.  The first book is called Outlander, and the entire series contains some of my most favorite and most read books.  It has all of those things I love:  history, Scotland, time travel, some excellent bodice-ripping, true love, intrigue, cliffhangers, and rich characters.

Last year I discovered knitting.

A picture of a scarf being knitted on single p...

A picture of a scarf being knitted on single point needles out of homespun yarn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)









This passage from Diana Gabaldon’s Drums of Autumn combine the two.  Swoon!!

The basket was full of dyed skeins of wool and linen thread.  Some I had been given by Jocasta, some I had spun myself.  The difference was obvious, but even the lumpy, awkward strands I produced could be used for something.  Not stockings or jerseys; perhaps I could knit a tea cozy—that seem sufficiently shapeless to disguise all of my deficiencies.   Jamie had been simultaneously shocked and amused to find that I didn’t know how to knit.  The question had never arisen at Lallybroch, where Jenny and the female servants kept everyone in knitted goods.  I had taken on the chores of stillroom and garden, and never dealt with needlework beyond the simplest mending.    “Ye canna clickit at all?” he said incredulously.  “And what did ye do for your winter stockings in Boston, then?”   “Bought them, “ I said. He had looked elaborately around the clearing where we had been sitting, admiring the half-finished cabin. “Since I dinna see any shops about, I suppose ye’d best learn, aye?”    “I suppose so.”  I dubiously eyed the knitting basket Jocasta had given me.  It was well equipped, with three long circular wire needles in different sizes, and a sinister-looking set of four double-ended ivory ones, slender as stilettos, which I knew were used in some mysterious fashion to turn heels of stockings.  “I’ll ask Jocasta to show me, next time we do down to River Run.  Next year perhaps.”   Jamie snorted briefly and picked up a needle and a ball of yarn.  “It’s no verra difficult, Sassenach.  Look—this is how you cast up your row.”  Drawing the thread out of the closed fist, he made a loop around his thumb, slipped it into the needle and with a quick economy of motion, cast on a long row of stitches in a matter of seconds.  Then he handed me the other needle and another ball of yarm.  “There—you try.”   I looked at him in complete amazement. You can knit?”   “Well of course I can, “ he said, staring at me in puzzlement.  “I’ve known how to clickit wi’ needles since I was seven years old.  DO they not teach bairns anything in your time?”   “Well,” I said, feeling mildly foolish, “they sometimes teach little girls to do needlework, but not boys.”   “They didna teach you, did they?  Besides, it’s no fine needlework, Sassenach, it’s only plain knitting.  Here.  Take your thumb and dip it so, …”   And so he and Ian—who, it turned out, could also knit and was prostrated at mirth at my lack of knowledge—had taught me the simple basics of knit and purl, explaining, between snorts of derision over my efforts, that in the Highlands all boys were routinely taught to knit, that being a useful occupation well suited to the long idle hours of herding sheep or cattle on the shielings.   “Once a man’s grown and has a wife to do for him, and a lad of his own to mind the sheep, he maybe doesna make his own stockings anymore,” Ian had said, deftly executing the turn of the heel before handing me back the stocking, “but even wee ladies ken how, Auntie.”   I cast an eye at my current project, some ten inches of a wooly shawl, which lay in a small crumpled heap at the bottom of the basket, I had learned the basics, but knitting for me was still a pitched battle with knotted thread and slippery needles, not the soothing, dreamy exercise that Jamie and Ian made of it, needles clicking away in their big hands by the fire, comforting as the sound of crickets in the hearth. 

This excerpt can be found on pages 520-21.  

A Random Thought about Miss Saigon

I grew up watching musicals and listening their soundtracks with my sisters.  We could act them out, we knew them so well.  Clang clang clang goes the trolley.  I want to live in America.  Bless your beautiful hide.  That ain’t it kid, that ain’t it kid.  The waving wheat can sure smell sweet.  Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep.  You are sixteen going on seventeen. Shining, gleaming–streaming flaxen waxen.  I don’t expect my love affairs to last for long.  What’s the buzz, tell me whats a-happening.  Sorry–I could go on and on.

Today, as I was vacuuming, singing Miss Saigon music to myself, I pondered yet once again that as Kim was singing, “Nothing must stop what I must do…my son I’ll give my life for you”, did she realize what she was really doing?


Kim and Tam

Of course I know she knew she was sacrificing her life so that her son would be “an American boy” with Chris and Ellen.  But did she think about the fact that for the rest of his life, Tam would have understand that he was the reason his mother killed herself?  Because, as an adult, don’t you suppose he might think, “Jeez, Ma–maybe if you had just waited and talked to Dad…” or “if you’d loved me, you would have tried to go with me”.  Can you imagine the neuroses that would engender?

Don’t get me wrong…I can still enjoy and weep and sing a long with the tragedy of it all.  Something being “realistic” isn’t a criteria for enjoyment for me, or I wouldn’t be able to read all of those Diana Gabaldon books over and over again.  Man, I do love me a good time travel story.  But when characters touch me, I always imagine how it should have been different.  That’s what well written characters do, right?  Make you think of them as real people who have choices beyond the lines written for them?

When I finally made my husband sit down and watch Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, he just could not get past the premise…kidnap and bunch of girls for months, and they will fall in love with you?  I protested that the girls already loved the boys (such singers! such dancers! such handsome shirts in primary colors!).  I can definitely get past the premise.

So I will try to understand Kim’s martyrdom…or maybe she did it to force Chris to “hold (her) one more time”?   Sigh.  I don’t know.  Miss Saigon is still near perfection, regardless.  And I will try not to think so much.

Could you name all the musicals I quoted in the first paragraph??