Saturday, November 30, 2013

How do you say "Sassenach"?

Here's a wonderful St. Andrew's Day present from Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie Fraser in the upcoming OUTLANDER TV series on STARZ.

Have you ever wondered how to pronounce "Sassenach"?  Watch this.

I loved this, and I think you will, too. <g> (If you look carefully, you'll see the triangular scar on his throat, left by Jack Randall during their first encounter at Lallybroch.)

Diana Gabaldon's comment on Twitter: "All I'll say about [this video] is... I Told You So."

Here are the other videos in this series:

Speak OUTLANDER: Craigh na Dun

Speak OUTLANDER: Mo nighean donn

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

REPOST: Happy Thanksgiving!

In honor of the holiday, here are some Thanksgiving-themed quotes from the OUTLANDER books.  This has become an annual tradition here on Outlandish Observations, and I hope you enjoy them!

1) Roger and Brianna, hunting turkeys:
"What a thing," he said. He held it at arm's length to drain, admiring the vivid reds and blues of the bare, warty head and dangling wattle. "I don't think I've ever seen one, save roasted on a platter, with chestnut dressing and roast potatoes."

He looked from the turkey to her with great respect, and nodded at the gun.

"That's great shooting, Bree."

She felt her cheeks flush with pleasure, and restrained the urge to say, "Aw, shucks, it warn't nothin'," settling instead for a simple, "Thanks."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 20, "Shooting Lessons". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I love this scene, both for what it reveals about Brianna's childhood (did Frank really find evidence that she would travel to the 18th century some day?) and for Roger's reaction. He's a little taken aback by her shooting skills, but his ego doesn't seem to be threatened by the fact that she's better at hunting (providing food for the family) than he is.

2) Claire and Jamie receiving gifts from the local Native Americans, very much in the spirit of the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving:
Once the official introductions were over, Nacognaweto motioned to Berthe, who obediently brought out the large bundle she had carried, and opened it at my feet, displaying a large basket of orange and green-striped squash, a string of dried fish, a smaller basket of yams, and a huge pile of Indian corn, shucked and dried on the cob.

“My God,” I murmured. “The return of Squanto!”

Everyone gave me a blank look, and I hastened to smile and make exclamations--thoroughly heartfelt--of joy and pleasure over the gifts. It might not get us through the whole winter, but it was enough to augment our diet for a good two months.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 20, "The White Raven". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

3) Jocasta and Duncan's wedding feast:
"Can ye not decide where to begin, Sassenach?" He reached down and took the empty wineglass from her hand, taking advantage of the movement to come close against her back, feeling the warmth of her through his clothes.

She laughed, and swayed back against him, leaning on his arm. She smelled faintly of rice powder and warm skin, with the scent of rose hips in her hair.

"I'm not even terribly hungry. I was just counting the jellies and preserves. There are thirty-seven different ones--unless I've missed my count."

He spared a glance for the table, which did indeed hold a bewildering array of silver dishes, porcelain bowls, and wooden platters, groaning with more food than would feed a Highland village for a month.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 46, "Quicksilver". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Most major holiday dinners give me this same feeling, although I can't say I've ever seen thirty-seven different varieties of *anything* at one meal before. <g>

4) The "hearth blessing" on Fraser's Ridge:
We blessed the hearth two days later, standing in the wall-less cabin. Myers had removed his hat, from respect, and Ian had washed his face. Rollo was present, too, as was the small white pig, who was required to attend as the personification of our "flocks," despite her objections; the pig saw no point in being removed from her meal of acorns to participate in a ritual so notably lacking in food.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 19, "Hearth Blessing". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Considering how successful that little homestead on the Ridge would prove to be, I think there must have been something extra-powerful in that blessing. <g> And I love the mention of the little white piglet, who will grow up to become the infamous White Sow. If this blessing was intended to ensure fertility on the part of that sow, it succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

5) The Selkirk Grace:
[Hamish] glared round the table to insure that everyone was in a properly reverential attitude before bowing his own head. Satisfied, he intoned,

"Some hae meat that canna eat,
And some could eat that want it.
We hae meat, and we can eat,
And so may God be thankit.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 6, "Colum's Hall". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Happy Thanksgiving! (And to those of you outside the U.S., best wishes for the holiday season.)  If you're looking for OUTLANDER-related food ideas, check out this OUTLANDER Thanksgiving Feast posted by Theresa of Outlander Kitchen!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Black Friday sale on!

Looking for a gift for the OUTLANDER fan on your list this year?  Check out the Black Friday sale on!  All mugs and T-shirts are 50% off, and everything else is 20% off, through midnight Pacific time tonight, November 26, 2013.

All you have to do is use the code BLKFRIDAY983 at checkout. Go here to see all the items in my Outlandish Observations store on

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Jamie and Ian quotes

Diana Gabaldon's latest story, "Virgins", about Jamie and Ian as very young mercenaries in France, before Jamie met Claire, will be published in the DANGEROUS WOMEN anthology on Tuesday, December 3.  While we wait for "Virgins", I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite quotes from the OUTLANDER books about Jamie and Ian's relationship.

1) Reminiscing about childhood punishments:
"[Brian] gave us each a broom, a brush, and a bucket, and pointed us in the direction of the broch,” said Jamie, taking up the story. “Said I’d convinced him of my point, so he’d decided on a more ‘constructive’ form of punishment.”

Ian’s eyes rolled slowly up, as though following the rough stones of the broch upward.

“That tower rises sixty feet from the ground,” he told me, “and it’s thirty feet in diameter, wi’ three floors.” He heaved a sigh. “We swept it from the top to the bottom,” he said, “and scrubbed it from the bottom to the top. It took five days, and I can taste rotted oat-straw when I cough, even now.”

“And you tried to kill me on the third day,” said Jamie, “for getting us into that.” He touched his head gingerly. “I had a wicked gash over my ear, where ye hit me wi’ the broom.”

“Oh, weel,” Ian said comfortably, “that was when ye broke my nose the second time, so we were even.”

“Trust a Murray to keep score,” Jamie said, shaking his head.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 29, "More Honesty". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
2) Jamie and Ian, age eight or so, the day after Jamie's mother died in childbirth:
"I thought I’d have a new brother,” he’d said suddenly. “But I don’t. It’s just Jenny and me, still.” In the years since, he’d succeeded in forgetting that small pain, the loss of his hoped-for brother, the boy who might have given him back a little of his love for his older brother, Willie, dead of the smallpox. He’d cherished that pain for a little, a flimsy shield against the enormity of knowing his mother gone forever.

Ian had sat thinking for a bit, then reached into his sporran and got out the wee knife his father had given him on his last birthday.

“I’ll be your brother,” he’d said, matter-of-fact, and cut across his thumb, hissing a little through his teeth.

He’d handed the knife to Jamie, who’d cut himself, surprised that it hurt so much, and then they’d pressed their thumbs together and sworn to be brothers always. And had been.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 81, "Purgatory II". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
3) Ian was the only person other than Claire who knew what Jack Randall had done to Jamie at Wentworth.
"He’s only a year older than me. When I was growing, he was always there. Until I was fourteen, there wasna a day went by when I didna see Ian. And even later, after I’d gone to foster wi’ Dougal, and to Leoch, and then later still to Paris, to university--when I’d come back, I’d walk round a corner and there he would be, and it would be like I’d never left. He’d just smile when he saw me, like he always did, and then we’d be walkin’ away together, side by side, ower the fields and the streams, talkin’ of everything.” He sighed deeply, and rubbed a hand through his hair.

“Ian…he’s the part of me that belongs here, that never left,” he said, struggling to explain. “I thought…I must tell him; I didna want to feel…apart. From Ian. From here."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 33, "Thy Brother's Keeper". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
4) This scene provides a brief glimpse into what Jamie and Ian must have been like as boys:
"What makes ye think ye can order me about?”

Jamie eyed his brother-in-law’s tense back for a moment, scowling. Suddenly, a muscle at the corner of his mouth twitched.

“Because I’m bigger than you are,” he said belligerently, still scowling.

Ian rounded on him, incredulity stamped on his face. Indecision played in his eyes for less than a second. His shoulders squared up and his chin lifted.

"I’m older than you,” he answered, with an identical scowl.

“I’m stronger.”

“No, you’re not!”

“Aye, I am!”

“No, I am!”

A vein of dead seriousness underlay the laughter in their voices; while this little confrontation might be passed off as all in fun, they were as intent on each other as they had ever been in youth or childhood, and the echoes of challenge rang in Jamie’s voice as he ripped loose his cuff and jerked back the sleeve of his shirt.

“Prove it,” he said.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 35, "Moonlight". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
5) This scene in VOYAGER always makes me laugh:
"Well,” said Ian slowly, “as I’ve told the lad he’s going to be thrashed, and he kens verra well he’s earned it, I canna just go back on my word. But as for me doing it--no, I dinna think I will.” A faint gleam of humor showed in the soft brown eyes. He reached into a drawer of the sideboard, drew out a thick leather strap, and thrust it into Jamie’s hand. “You do it.”

“Me?” Jamie was horror-struck. He made a futile attempt to shove the strap back into Ian’s hand, but his brother-in-law ignored it. “I canna thrash the lad!"

“Oh, I think ye can,” Ian said calmly, folding his arms. “Ye’ve said often enough ye care for him as though he were your son.” He tilted his head to one side, and while his expression stayed mild, the brown eyes were implacable. “Well, I’ll tell ye, Jamie--it’s no that easy to be his Da; best ye go and find that out now, aye?"

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 32, "The Prodigal's Return". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
6) And finally, here's one of my favorite scenes in ECHO.  Jamie and Jenny, shortly after Ian's death:
"Where d’ye think he is now?” Jenny said suddenly. “Ian, I mean.”

He glanced at the house, then at the new grave waiting, but of course that wasn’t Ian anymore. He was panicked for a moment, his earlier emptiness returning--but then it came to him, and, without surprise, he knew what it was Ian had said to him.

“On your right, man.” On his right. Guarding his weak side.

“He’s just here,” he said to Jenny, nodding to the spot between them. “Where he belongs."

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 84, "The Right of It". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
For more information about "Virgins", see my FAQ page here.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Seven years!

It's my birthday today!  I'm looking forward to a relaxing day, and dinner out with my parents this evening.

I always date my "OUTLANDER anniversary" from my birthday, because I originally bought OUTLANDER in 2006 with a gift card my mom had given me for my birthday.  I've always thought it was very funny that I got addicted to Diana Gabaldon's books without spending a penny of my own money. <g>

(The story of how I found OUTLANDER is here, if you haven't seen it before.)

Seven years ago, I picked up OUTLANDER in the bookstore, knowing nothing whatever about it in advance, and my life changed forever, in more ways than I can count. It's been an amazing, wonderful roller-coaster ride, and I'm glad I've been able to share it with so many of you.

Seven years.  I have been thinking about that this week, remembering Jamie's seven years in the cave, and reflecting that even though seven years seems like a long time, it also passes in the blink of an eye.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 11/22/2013

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books.

Vintage Fan: 18th Century French c1750 - Pastorelle in the style of Watteau with skin mount, stick mother of pearl, finely pierced, carved and embossed with a sacrificial scene in gold

1) The fan was an important fashion accessory for upper-class ladies in the 18th century. The one above is from France, circa 1750. (Photo credit: CharmaineZoe, on Flickr.  Click on the photo for a bigger view.)
"Men,” I told him, “have no notion of fashion. But not to worry. The seamstress says that’s what the fan is for.” I flipped the matching lace-trimmed fan open with a gesture that had taken fifteen minutes’ practice to perfect, and fluttered it enticingly over my bosom.

Jamie blinked meditatively at this performance, then turned to take my cloak from the wardrobe.

“Do me the one favor, Sassenach,” he said, draping the heavy velvet over my shoulders. “Take a larger fan."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 9, "The Splendors of Versailles". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

This exquisitely detailed 18th century French fan is an example of a style called "brisé", painted scenes placed on individual ivory sticks, held together by an interlacing ribbon.  Click on the photo to see more close-up views. (Photo credit: Paris Chateau)

Look here for some interesting information about the "language of the fan" in the 18th century.  For more information about the types of fans used in the 18th century, look here.

Scottish Owl Centre

2) You may remember Jamie and Claire's conversation about owls, in DRAGONFLY:
Returning to his earlier remark, I said, "Why did you say ‘tight as an owl’? I’ve heard that before, to mean drunk, but not costive. Are owls constipated, then?”

Completing his course, he flipped over and lay on the rug, panting.

“Oh, aye.” He blew out a long sigh, and caught his breath. He sat up and pushed the hair out of his eyes. “Or not really, but that’s the story ye hear. Folk will tell ye that owls havena got an arsehole, so they canna pass the things they eat--like mice, aye? So the bones and the hairs and such are all made up into a ball, and the owl vomits them out, not bein’ able to get rid of them out the other end."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 7, "Royal Audience". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The photo above was taken at the the Scottish Owl Centre in Whitburn, West Lothian, Scotland. (Photo credit: mmcclair, on Flickr.)

What are owl pellets, exactly? According to this site,
Indigestible material left in the gizzard such as teeth, skulls, claws, and feathers are too dangerous to pass through the rest of the owl's digestive tract. To safely excrete this material, the owl's gizzard compacts it into a tight pellet that the owl regurgitates. The regurgitated pellets are known as owl pellets.

Owl pellets are useful to researchers because they can find out quite a bit about an owl's lifestyle through careful examination of the pellet's contents. Since most of the prey's bones are not actually broken during the attack and the subsequent digestion process, they can be readily identified in the pellet. Most pellets include a skull or skulls, which makes identification of the prey relatively simple.

3) You may recall Hermon Husband telling Jamie about James Nayler (1616-1660), an early Quaker.
"I am minded,” he said, glancing from Jamie to me, “of James Nayler. Thee will have heard of him?”

Jamie looked as blank as I did, and Hermon smiled in his beard.

“He was an early member of the Society of Friends, one of those who joined George Fox, who began the Society in England. James Nayler was a man of forceful conviction, though he was...individual in his expression of it. Upon one famous occasion, he walked naked through the snow, whilst shouting doom to the city of Bristol. George Fox inquired of him then, ‘Is thee sure the Lord told thee to do this?’ ”

The smile widened, and he put his hat carefully back on his head.

“He said that he was. And so am I, friend James. God keep thee and thy family."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 19, "The Devil Ye Ken". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)   
According to this site,
Nayler [and a group of Friends] travelled in procession through Glastonbury and Wells and entered Bristol on 24 October [1656]. Nayler went on horseback while his companions sang hosannas and cast garments before him in what many regarded as a blasphemous imitation of Christ's entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The Bristol Quakers immediately disassociated themselves from Nayler and his followers, who were arrested and charged under the Blasphemy Act of 1650. Although Nayler maintained it was a symbolic act, he was accused of impersonating Christ and claiming divine status.
Nayler's punishment for his actions that day seems barbaric by modern standards.  From Wikipedia:
On 16 December 1656 he was convicted of blasphemy in a highly publicized trial before the Second Protectorate Parliament. Narrowly escaping execution, he was pilloried and whipped through the streets of London, was branded with the letter B on his forehead, had his tongue pierced with a hot iron, and was then transported back to Bristol to be whipped through its streets too, before enduring two years imprisonment at hard labor.

4) The photo above shows what eyebright (Euphrasia) looks like. (Photo credit: Born.Free, on Flickr.)
The two men drew closer together, continuing their lopsided conversation with an increased intensity. Since Jamie’s part seemed to be limited mainly to grunts and exclamations of interest, I could glean little of the content, and busied myself instead with a survey of the strange little rock plants sprouting from the surfaces of our perch.

I had collected a pocketful of eyebright and dittany by the time they finished talking and Hugh Munro rose to go.

(From  OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 17, "We Meet a Beggar". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to this site,
This plant has a long history of use for eye problems, hence the name of Eyebright. When used appropriately, eyebright will reduce inflammation in the eye caused by blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelash follicles) and conjunctivitis (inflammation or infection of the membrane lining the eyelids). It can be used as an eye wash, as eye drops, or plant infusions taken internally for ophthalmic use.
For more information about eyebright, look here.

(Note to those of you in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand:  the passage I quoted above from OUTLANDER was changed in CROSS STITCH to replace the reference to eyebright with another plant.  Look here for my detailed analysis of the differences between OUTLANDER and CROSS STITCH.)

5) This photo from Colonial Williamsburg shows all the items you'd need for doing laundry in the 18th century.  Now imagine doing it outdoors in summer:
It was much hotter in the yard, with the laundry fire roaring, and quite as damp as it had been in the cell, with the thick clouds of moisture boiling off the big kettle of clothes and plastering strands of hair to our faces. Our shifts already clung to our bodies, the grubby linen almost transparent with sweat--laundry was heavy work. There were, however, no bugs, and if the sun shone blinding, and fierce enough to redden my nose and arms--well, it shone, and that was something to be grateful for.

(From  A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 92, "Amanuensis". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)  
Here's an article about "the complexities of wash day in the 18th century".  And here's an interesting page about the history of laundry.

I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts.

Please note: Between the Thanksgiving holiday and other family obligations, I will be spending a lot of time traveling in the next two weeks, so I will be taking a little break from the FFF.  Look for the next installment of the Friday Fun Facts to be posted on December 13.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Video reviewer gets a part in the TV series!

Some of you may remember these video reviews of OUTLANDER and DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, posted by Jack Taylor on YouTube in 2011.

These videos are highly entertaining (especially if you DON'T take the views expressed therein too seriously!)

Why am I bringing this up again?  Because the creator of these video reviews showed up on Compuserve today, announcing that he's going to be in the OUTLANDER TV series!  You may see him as an extra in one of the episodes, if you look carefully.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Video interview with Sam Heughan!

Check out this terrific video interview with Sam Heughan!

I love listening to Sam talk! <g> Not just the Scottish accent, but the soft-spoken voice, just like Jamie's. Amazing.

And that dazzling smile -- again, just like Jamie's -- completely won me over.

My only quibble is that Sam made a comment to the effect that WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD is the last book in the series.  That's not true.  Diana has confirmed that there will be a Book 9!

If you're interested in the OUTLANDER TV series, you really need to watch this video!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sam Heughan interview in The Scotsman

Here's an excellent interview with Sam Heughan in The Scotsman. Definitely worth reading! (In case you're wondering, I asked Diana Gabaldon on Compuserve about the "secret trailer" Sam mentions in the article, and she said she hadn't heard a thing about it.)

Sam, who plays Jamie in the OUTLANDER TV series on STARZ, made his first public appearance in a kilt today at the BAFTA awards, where he was a presenter.

Friday, November 15, 2013

New publication date for the US and Canada!

Diana Gabaldon just announced that the new publication date for WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD will be June 10, 2014 in the US and Canada!

Look here for the full announcement.

Please help spread the word to any OUTLANDER fans you may know. And in case you missed it, look here for Diana Gabaldon's explanation of the reasons for the change in the publication date.

Friday Fun Facts - 11/15/2013

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books.

1) The Declaration of Arbroath, signed on April 6, 1320, is one of the most famous documents in Scottish history. Jamie was obviously very familiar with it:
"Though as to principle, Sassenach—” He leaned back in his chair, folded his arms over his chest, and closed his eyes.

“As long as but a hundred of us remain alive,” he said precisely, “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,” he said, opening his eyes. He gave me a lopsided smile. “Written some four hundred years ago. Speaking o’ principles, aye?”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 53, "Principles". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)  
According to the website of the National Archives of Scotland,
The document in the National Records of Scotland is the only surviving copy of the Declaration. It was kept with the rest of the national records in Edinburgh Castle until the early seventeenth century. When work was being done on the castle, the Declaration was taken for safekeeping to Tyninghame, the home of the official in charge of the records. While there it suffered damage through damp and it returned to the custody of the Deputy Clerk Register (the predecessor of the Keeper of the Records of Scotland) in 1829. Conservation staff at the NRS monitor the Declaration to ensure it survives for many centuries to come.
If you want to get a close-up view of the Declaration of Arbroath, go here. The Declaration was written in Latin, but you can see an English translation here.

2) This is an 18th century monstrance from Lyon, France.  (Photo credit: larryorquejr, on Flickr.)  I like to think that the one Claire saw in the Abbey might have looked something like this.
The Sacrament itself was almost obscured by the magnificence of its container. The huge monstrance, a sunburst of gold more than a foot across, sat serenely on the altar, guarding the humble bit of bread at its center.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 38, "The Abbey". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
I'm Jewish, so I'm not very familiar with Catholic religious practices.  But according to this site,
At the beginning of the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, a priest or deacon removes the sacred host from the tabernacle and places it in the Monstrance on the Altar for adoration by the faithful. "Monstrance" is the vessel used in the Church to display the consecrated Eucharistic Host, during Eucharistic adoration or benediction. The word monstrance comes from the Latin word monstrare, meaning "to expose". It is known in Latin as an Ostensorium.
Even if you don't share Claire and Jamie's Catholic faith, you can certainly appreciate the monstrance as a beautiful work of art.

3) This video shows Archie Bell and the Drells performing "Tighten Up".  Evidently Claire was very familiar with this song, which was a huge hit in 1968.
I glanced out the window and saw [Mrs. Bell and her daughters] making their way down the street, clustered together in hopeful excitement, staggering into the street occasionally from the effects of wine and emotion.

“We don’t only sing but we dance just as good as we walk,” I murmured, watching them go.

Jamie gave me a startled look.

“Archie Bell and the Drells,” I explained. “Never mind."

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 18, "Pulling Teeth". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I had never heard of this song before I read ECHO, so I was baffled by the reference at first, until I looked it up.

4) Did you ever wonder where Diana got the name "Tranquil Teal" for one of the ships in AN ECHO IN THE BONE?
I hate Boats. I despise them with the utmost Fiber of my Being. And yet I find myself once more launched upon the dreadful Bosom of the Sea, aboard a Craft known as the Tranquil Teal, from which Absurdity you may deduce the grim Whimsy of her Captain. This Gentleman is a Smuggler of mixed Race, evil Countenance, and low Humor, who tells me, straight-faced, that his name is Trustworthy Roberts.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 25, "The Bosom of the Deep". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's Diana's explanation, from a post on Compuserve in April, 2009, a few months before ECHO was published:
As to details...people always ask writers where they get their ideas.  I can't always recall exactly where this or that came from, but in the present case, I happened to be writing this particular scene at our place in Santa Fe, during which time we were having the window frames all repainted.  Happen the color of the paint we chose was called "Tranquil Teal."  <g>
The image above is a sample of a paint color called "Tranquil Teal" (Dunn-Edwards DE5703, to be precise). I'm not positive that this is the exact same paint that Diana used as the inspiration for the ship's name, but it's probably pretty close.

There is also a brand of duct tape that comes in a color called "Tranquil Teal".

5) This is the cover of the 1910 edition of FANNY HILL. This infamous erotic novel, written in 1748 by John Cleland and originally published under the title MEMOIRS OF A WOMAN OF PLEASURE, was one of the first works of pornographic prose in English, and became one of the most banned books in history.  No wonder Claire was appalled to see six-year-old Jemmy reading it!
[Jem] was retrieved from Jamie’s study, where he had been spelling out words in--

“Jesus Christ on a piece of toast!” his grandmother blurted, snatching the book from him. “Jamie! How could you?”

Jamie felt a deep blush rise over him. How could he, indeed? He’d taken the battered copy of Fanny Hill in trade, part of a parcel of used books bought from a tinker. He hadn’t looked at the books before buying them, and when he did come to look them over...Well, it was quite against his instincts to throw away a book--any book.

“What’s P-H-A-L-L-U-S?” Jemmy was asking his father.

“Another word for prick,” Roger said briefly. “Don’t bloody use it."

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 114, "Amanda". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's an article from the Boston Globe from July 7, 2013, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the book's first commercial printing in the United States.

If you want to read FANNY HILL for yourself, it's available on the Project Gutenberg site here.

I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts. And please come back next week for more!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Photos from the set of OUTLANDER!

Here are the latest photos from the set of the OUTLANDER TV series, from an article in the UK Daily Mail.

Caitriona looks great, and she seems to be enjoying herself.

Fascinating to see the costumes!  They're beautifully done, and very natural-looking.  The muted colors of Claire's outfit were a bit of a surprise to me at first, but that's only because I'm used to the vivid colors you see in modern-day tartans.  (That's not in any way a complaint, by the way, just an observation.)  My next thought was, "Homespun.  Somebody made that."  Looking at the pictures, you can easily imagine the the enormous amount of work that would have gone into producing everything Claire and the others are wearing using 18th-century methods, from shearing the sheep to spinning the wool, waulking the wool, dying the fabric with homemade plant-based dyes, and so on.

I was surprised to see the children, until it occurred to me that "bringing the story to life" means we are going to see quite a lot of things that were going on in the background of the scenes we're so familiar with from the book, things that Claire would have seen and heard but perhaps not paid a lot of attention to, or small details that Diana didn't choose to focus on in the book.  (Speaking of small details:  is anyone else wondering why the young lads aren't wearing kilts?)

I'm relieved to see Angus Mhor looming over Claire, in the fourth photo, because I thought the actor who plays him, Stephen Walters, was much shorter than Angus is described in the books.  He looks just right to me in that photo. <g>  Grant O'Rourke, as Rupert (in the next-to-last photo), looks very much as I'd imagined him, including the beard. (How do I know for a fact who those men are?  Because Diana said so, on Compuserve this afternoon.)

I like the close-up photo of the tent very much!  I always find it helps a lot to see what these things looked like (that's why I started my Friday Fun Facts), but somehow I never pictured exactly what the tent poles of an 18th century tent might look like. <g>   Now I'll have a mental image for all those other scenes involving tents, like the one J&C shared in DRAGONFLY before Prestonpans.

It's very exciting to see these photos from the set of OUTLANDER.  I really can't wait until we see it on TV!

For more information about the OUTLANDER TV series, see my FAQ page here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Diana's visit to the set in February

Diana Gabaldon dropped a hint on Compuserve today about her planned visit to the set of the OUTLANDER TV series, currently scheduled for February 2014:
"[The] oath-taking is the specific scene they wanted me to be there for--being filmed in February."
Diana has mentioned before that the producers have asked her to do a cameo appearance on the show, but this is the first indication we've had of which episode that might be.

The oath-taking sounds like an unforgettable scene to see first-hand, with all those Highlanders in full regalia (just imagine the costumes!) and Jamie's very dramatic part in the proceedings.  In fact, it's one of the scenes I'm looking forward to the most.

Now I'm wondering if maybe Diana will do a cameo as one of the women watching the oath-taking from the gallery above the hall, along with Claire?
The gallery was lit by pine torches, brilliant flares that rose straight up in their sockets, outlined in black by the soot their predecessors had left on the walls. Several faces turned, blinking, to look at me as I came out of the hangings at the back of the gallery; from the looks of it, all the women of the castle were up here. I recognized the girl Laoghaire, Magdalen and some of the other women I had met in the kitchens, and, of course, the stout form of Mrs. FitzGibbons, in a position of honor near the balustrade.

Seeing me, she beckoned in a friendly manner, and the women squeezed against each other to let me pass. When I reached the front, I could see the whole Hall spread out beneath.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 10, "The Oath-Taking". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Wouldn't that be amazing to watch in person?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Book 8 release date is changing!

Diana Gabaldon made the following announcement today:
"Well.   I _really_ hate writing this, and I do apologize….but the pub date for MOBY is moving."
*** Before you panic, PLEASE take the time to read the full explanation in Diana's own words. ***

Here's my reaction:

I know a lot of people will be disappointed to hear this, but I'm not really surprised that the date is moving. If Random House wants to coordinate MOHB's release with the TV series, it doesn't make sense for the book to come out 5 months earlier.

And If this delay gives Diana more time to make sure the book is the best possible quality, then IMHO it will be worth it, no matter how much the fans scream and moan about the date changing. 
"I could get the necessary wordage on paper by the end of the year—but it wouldn’t be _good_.  Good takes more time.   And I’m really sorry, but you’re not getting a book that’s less than the best I can do."
The way I see it, that's the important thing!  Just speaking personally, the idea of a date change doesn't bother me.  We've been waiting more than four years, we can manage a few more months.  The book will be out when it's ready, and it will absolutely be worth the wait!  I'm sure of that.

Note to those of you who had already made plans based on the preliminary book-tour schedule on the Random House site:
"Since the pub date is moving….I’m afraid (and my Deep Apologies to the poor publicists) all the tour events will have to be rescheduled, once a new date is chosen."
Please help spread the word to any other OUTLANDER fans you may know!

*** UPDATE 11/15/2013 6:51 pm: Diana Gabaldon announced today that the new publication date for the US and Canada will be June 10, 2014!  Look here for her announcement with more details. ***

Sunday, November 10, 2013

OUTLANDER Casting: Prentis Hancock as Uncle Lamb!

More casting news: Prentis Hancock will play Claire's beloved Uncle Lamb!
Quentin Lambert Beauchamp. “Q” to his archaeological students and his friends. “Dr. Beauchamp” to the scholarly circles in which he moved and lectured and had his being. But always Uncle Lamb to me.

My father’s only brother, and my only living relative at the time, he had been landed with me, aged five, when my parents were killed in a car crash. Poised for a trip to the Middle East at the time, he had paused in his preparations long enough to make the funeral arrangements, dispose of my parents’ estates, and enroll me in a proper girls’ boarding school. Which I had flatly refused to attend.

Faced with the necessity of prying my chubby fingers off the car’s door handle and dragging me by the heels up the steps of the school, Uncle Lamb, who hated personal conflict of any kind, had sighed in exasperation, then finally shrugged and tossed his better judgment out the window along with my newly purchased round straw boater.

“Ruddy thing,” he muttered, seeing it rolling merrily away in the rearview mirror as we roared down the drive in high gear. “Always loathed hats on women, anyway.” He had glanced down at me, fixing me with a fierce glare.

“One thing,” he said, in awful tones. “You are not to play dolls with my Persian grave figurines. Anything else, but not that. Got it?"

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 1, "A New Beginning". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
I think seeing Claire and Uncle Lamb together (in flashback, presumably) will help the TV viewers who haven't read the books to understand their relationship much better.

For more about the OUTLANDER TV series on STARZ, including a list of all the cast members we know about so far, please see my FAQ page here.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #2

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books.  This is a collection of some of my favorite items from previous FFF posts.  All of these were originally posted more than a year ago.  Hope you enjoy them!  (In case you missed it, here's the Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #1.)

1) As you can see from the photo above, porcupines' front teeth really are orange, just as Jamie described them in his letter to Jenny in DRUMS OF AUTUMN:
Your son sends his Most Affectionate Regards, and begs to be Remembered to his Father, Brothers and Sisters. He bids you tell Matthew and Henry that he sends them the Encloased Object, which is the preserved Skull of an animal called Porpentine by Reason of its Prodigious Spines (though it is not at all like the small Hedge-creepie which you will know by that name, being much Greater in Size and Dwelling in the Treetops, where it Feasts upon the tender shoots). Tell Matthew and Henry that I do not know why the Teeth are orange. No Doubt the animal finds it Decorative.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 34, "Lallybroch". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

The picture above shows a porcupine's skull, like the one Jamie sent to Lallybroch for Henry and Matthew.  Click on the photo for a bigger view.  You can see more porcupine skull pictures here.

Why do they have orange teeth?  According to this site, "Like all other rodents, porcupines have ever-growing incisors. The enamel on the front of the incisors is stained orange by iron salts that also serve to strengthen the tooth."

Why does Jamie refer to the creature as a "porpentine"?  It turns out that "porpentine" is an archaic word for porcupine.  You may recall the reference in Hamlet, Act I, Scene 5:
But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine.
Bonus trivia question:  There is a reference to a "fretful porpentine" in the OUTLANDER books.  Do you remember who said it, and under what circumstances?

2) The small ivory carving shown above is an example of a Japanese art form called netsuke.  According to Wikipedia:
Traditional Japanese garments—robes called kosode and kimono—had no pockets; however, men who wore them needed a place to store their personal belongings, such as pipes, tobacco, money, seals, or medicines.

Their solution was to place such objects in containers (called sagemono) hung by cords from the robes' sashes (obi)....Whatever the form of the container, the fastener that secured the cord at the top of the sash was a carved, button-like toggle called a netsuke.
These netsuke figurines are very small, just a couple of inches long, which makes the details of the carving and decoration even more impressive.  Just imagine how exotic these little figures would have appeared to Englishmen in the 18th century, like Lord John and his friend Arthur Norrington:
Norrington raised one thin brow and took the package, which he unwrapped with greedy fingers.

“Oh!” he said, with unfeigned delight. He turned the tiny ivory carving over gently in his large, soft hands, bringing it close to his face to see the details, entranced. “Tsuji?”

Grey shrugged, pleased with the effect of his gift. He knew nothing of netsuke himself, but knew a man who dealt in ivory miniatures from China and Japan. He had been surprised at the delicacy and artistry of the tiny thing, which showed a half-clothed woman engaged in a very athletic form of sexual congress with a naked obese gentleman with his hair in a topknot.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 15, "The Black Chamber". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

If you want to see more examples, you can do a Google image search on the term "netsuke" (or "shunga netsuke", for the ones with erotic themes).  I didn't find an exact match for the one described in ECHO, but you can certainly get the idea by looking at these pictures. <g>  But please use caution if you're viewing the "shunga netsuke" pictures at work or where young children are around.  Some of them are very sexually explicit.  (The one shown above is quite tame by comparison.)

3) Here's an article about the history of trepanation. The engraving above (from Wikipedia) comes from an 18th-century French encyclopedia.  Looking at this picture gives you a new appreciation of what Lord John went through in DRUMS, doesn't it?  No wonder Claire was fascinated. I bet she wished she'd been there to observe the operation. <g>
"Brianna says that Dr. Fentiman trephined your skull."

He shifted uncomfortably under the sheets.

"I am told that he did. I am afraid I was not aware of it at the time."

Her mouth quirked slightly.

"Just as well. Would you mind if I look at it? It's only curiosity," she went on, with unaccustomed delicacy. "Not medical necessity. It's only that I've never seen a trepanation."

He closed his eyes, giving up.

"Beyond the state of my bowels, I have no secrets from you, madame."

He tilted his head, indicating the location of the hole in his head, and felt her cool fingers slide under the bandage, lifting the gauze and allowing a breath of air to soothe his hot head.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 63, "Forgiveness". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I was very amused to see that the gentleman in the illustration operates without even rolling up his lace cuffs. <g> Although it appears he's wearing some sort of apron over his suit.

This photo shows a set of surgical instruments designed for trepanation, circa 1760.  (Photo from

The thing that disturbs me about the trepanation in the story is that it was the habitually-drunk Dr. Fentiman who drilled the hole in Lord John's skull. I mean, yes, he was undoubtedly the only doctor available and all that, but still, having a drunken surgeon approaching your brain with a drill...?? It's probably just as well that John wasn't conscious at the time. <g>

4) Why did apothecary shops always have a stuffed crocodile or alligator hanging from the ceiling? The custom goes back centuries, and is even mentioned in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  The photo above is from the Deutsches Apothekenmuseum in Heidelberg, Germany, which looks like a very interesting place to visit.  (Click on the photo to see a bigger view.)
A fairly good-sized crocodile, presumably stuffed, hung from the ceiling. I gazed up at the yellow belly-scutes, hard and shiny as pressed wax.

"Real, is it?" I asked, taking a seat at the scarred oak table.

Master Raymond glanced upward, smiling.

"My crocodile? Oh, to be sure, madonna. Gives the customers confidence." He jerked his head toward the shelf that ran along the wall just above eye height. It was lined with white fired-porcelain jars, each ornamented with gilded curlicues, painted flowers and beasts, and a label, written in elaborate black script. Three of the jars closest to me were labeled in Latin, which I translated with some difficulty--crocodile's blood, and the liver and bile of the same beast, presumably the one swinging sinisterly overhead in the draft from the main shop.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 8, "Unlaid Ghosts and Crocodiles". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
What's the significance of the crocodile?  Check out this video for an explanation.

Many thanks to Alex Boxer, who created this video!  If you want to see more of Alex's videos, check out his website at

5) This is a hairstyle worn by Marie Antoinette, who became Queen of France in 1774. For a time in the 1770s, it was fashionable for upper-class ladies to wear very, very elaborate hairstyles.  But why sailing ships, of all things?  Here's one explanation:
One of the most fashionable hairstyles of the eighteenth century, À la Belle Poule, commemorated the victory of a French ship over an English ship in 1778. À la Belle Poule featured an enormous pile of curled and powdered hair stretched over a frame affixed to the top of a woman's head. The hair was then decorated with an elegant model of the Belle Poule ship, including sails and flags.

So it makes sense that the hairdresser helping Claire prepare for the Mischianza in May, 1778, would have put her hair up in a style that was all the rage that year among the nobility.  But I'm VERY glad that she roused herself from the fog of grief and depression long enough to refuse to wear such a thing.
John had presented me with the gown this morning, as well as summoning a hairdresser to deal with me from the neck up. I’d shut my eyes, rather shocked at how enjoyable the man’s fingers felt in my hair--but still more shocked when he handed me a looking glass and I saw a towering confection of curls and powder, with a tiny ship perched in it. Full-rigged.

I’d waited ’til he left, then hurriedly brushed it all out and pinned it up as simply as I could. John had given me a look, but said nothing.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 98, "Mischianza". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
If you do a Google image search on "Marie Antoinette ship hair", you'll find many more examples.  The satirists of the day appear to have found these extravagant coiffures highly entertaining.  Take a look at this page, which has a number of illustrations from the period.  I think some of the drawings are hilarious!

I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts. And please come back next week for more!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

OUTLANDER Casting: Old Alec and Letitia!

Here's the latest casting news:

Liam Carney will play Alec MacMahon MacKenzie, Leoch's Master of Horse.
A squat figure in leather breeks and rough shirt, the Master of Horse had an air of authority sufficient, I thought, to quell the most recalcitrant stallion. An “eye like Mars, to threaten or command,” the quotation sprang at once to mind. A single eye it was, the other being covered with a black cloth patch. As if to make up for the loss, his eyebrows sprouted profusely from a central point, sporting long grey hairs like insects’ antennae that waved threateningly from the basic brown tufts.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 7, "Davie Beaton's Closet". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I wonder if he'll wear an eye patch on the TV series?

Aislin McGuckin will play Colum's wife, Letitia.
"What on earth makes ye mention Letitia?” Jamie asked curiously. “I lived at the Castle for a year, and had speech of her maybe once that I remember, when she called me to her chamber and gave me the raw side of her tongue for leading a game of shinty through her rose garden.”

I told him what Geilie had said [about Jamie fathering Hamish], and he laughed, breath misting in the cool, rainy air.

“God,” he said, “as though I’d have the nerve!"

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24, "By the Pricking of My Thumbs". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Welcome to Liam and Aislin!

For more information about the OUTLANDER TV series, including a list of the cast members we know about so far, see my FAQ page here.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


A couple of quick announcements:

1) I have changed the RSS feed for this site to  If you have the old RSS feed address saved in your browser's Bookmarks or Favorites, please update it to the new URL.  Let me know if you have any problems or questions.

2) I just created a "Virgins FAQ", with answers to some of the commonly asked questions about Diana Gabaldon's newest story, which will be published on December 3, 2013.  Hope you find it useful!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Diana Gabaldon's latest blog post

Here's Diana Gabaldon's latest blog post, in response to all the comments on Facebook and elsewhere about Sam Heughan as Jamie.

I would really encourage all of you to read what she has to say!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

OUTLANDER TV series update

Here's a brief update on the OUTLANDER TV series.

First, the latest casting news:

Kathryn Howden will play Mrs. Baird, the owner of the B&B in Inverness who appears in the very beginning of OUTLANDER.

Tracey Wilkinson will play Mrs. Graham, the Rev. Wakefield's housekeeper. By coincidence, Wilkinson had a small part in the 2000 film version of BILLY ELLIOT, in which Gary Lewis (Colum) also appeared.

In case you're wondering why important characters like Ian Murray have not yet been announced, Diana Gabaldon confirmed on Compuserve last night that they are announcing the casting of the characters for the earlier episodes first.  Since Ian doesn't actually appear in the story until they get to Lallybroch, it will probably be a while before we find out who's going to play him.

And before you say, "But they cast Jenny already!", yes, that's true (look here), but apparently Jenny will appear in flashback much earlier in the story.

Many of you have seen this first official photo of Sam Heughan as Jamie.  Diana Gabaldon has confirmed that this is a younger Jamie, seen in flashback, in the scene where the English soldiers, including Black Jack Randall, arrive at Lallybroch.  That's why he looks so grim; he's just heard the soldiers, or possibly Jenny screaming from the house.

And speaking of Lallybroch....

I saw this on Twitter last night, and I love it! <g>

Finally, Diana Gabaldon mentioned on Twitter the other day that her visit to the set of OUTLANDER has been rescheduled for February.  I'm hoping that will work out better for her; presumably by that point, WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD will finally be finished (!) and she'll be able to relax and enjoy her time in Scotland.  (For those of you who don't know, Diana is deep in the Final Frenzy stage of MOHB at the moment.  She hopes to finish writing the book by the end of December.)

For more information about the OUTLANDER TV series, see my FAQ page here.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

My 1000th blog post!

I'm celebrating a blogging milestone today.  This is my 1000th blog post since I started Outlandish Observations in August, 2008!

Thanks so much to all of you who read and comment on my "outlandish observations" about All Things OUTLANDER.  And here's to the next thousand! <g>

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 11/1/2013

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books.

1) This is a traditional corn-husk doll, like the one Jemmy played with as a toddler. (Photo from Wikipedia.)
[Brianna] reached for the litter of toys, spilled out of their basket, and plucked a battered corn-husk doll from the rubble. “Here, see dolly? Nice dolly.”

Jemmy clasped the doll to his bosom, sat down abruptly on his bottom, and began to address the doll in earnest tones, shaking it now and then for emphasis.

"Eat!” he said sternly, poking it in the stomach. He laid the doll on the floor, picked up the basket, and carefully turned it over on top of the dolly. “Say put!”

Brianna rubbed a hand down her face, and sighed. She gave Roger a glance. “And you want to know what I do all day."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 87, "En Garde".  Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Some of these "corn dollies" can be quite elaborate, as you can see from the example above. These dolls can be male or female, but traditionally they have no faces.  According to Wikipedia,
One [Native American] legend is that the Spirit of Corn....made a doll out of her husks to entertain children. The doll had a beautiful face, and began to spend less time with children and more time contemplating her own loveliness. As a result of her vanity, the doll's face was taken away.
If you want to try making your own corn-husk doll, you can find step-by-step instructions here (PDF) or here.

2) These photos show what a scarificator looks like.  This particular one comes from Vienna, circa 1800.  (Photos from

According to this site,
First developed in the early 1700s as a more humane and efficient bloodletting instrument than lancets and fleams, scarificators had multiple blades that shot out with the press of a spring-loaded lever creating an instantaneous series of parallel cuts in the skin of the patient.
You may remember that Dr. Fentiman was quite enthusiastic about this new gadget:
A small, dapper man in a frock coat and a large wig stooped by her side, some small object in his hand.

Before I could speak, he pressed this against the maid’s limp arm. There was a small, sharp click! and he removed the object, leaving a rectangle of welling blood, a rich dark red against the slave’s brown skin. The drops bloomed, merged, and began to trickle down her arm and into a bleeding bowl at her elbow.

"A scarificator,” the little man explained to Ulysses, with some pride, displaying his object. “A great improvement over such crudities as lancets and fleams. Got it from Philadelphia!"

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 45, "If it Quacks..."  Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Here is a brief video demonstrating how a scarificator works.  These devices were still in common use well into the 19th century.

3) This is the marshmallow plant, Althaea officinalis.
She held out the basket she carried for my inspection. Four bulbous roots lay in the bottom.

“Mallow root,” she explained. “My husband suffers from a chill on the stomach now and again. Farts like an ox.”

I thought it best to stop this line of conversation before things got out of hand. “I haven’t introduced myself,” I said, extending a hand to help her up from the log. “My name is Claire. Claire Beauchamp.”

The hand that took mine was slender, with long, tapering white fingers, though I noticed the tips were stained, probably with the juices of the plants and berries resting alongside the mallow roots in her basket.

“I know who ye are,” she said. “The village has been humming with talk of ye, since ye came to the castle. My name is Geillis, Geillis Duncan."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 9, "The Gathering".  Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

This is what mallow roots look like.  According to Wikipedia,
The root has been used since Egyptian antiquity in a honey-sweetened confection useful in the treatment of sore throat. The later French version of the recipe, called pâte de guimauve (or "guimauve" for short), included an eggwhite meringue and was often flavored with rose water. Pâte de guimauve more closely resembles contemporary commercially available marshmallows, which no longer contain any actual marshmallow.
For more information about the medicinal uses of mallow roots, look here and here.

4) This postcard image shows a plaque on the memorial to the Regulators at Alamance Battleground, North Carolina.  (I don't know about the rest of you, but the reference to "two others, whose names are now unknown", makes me shiver.  Poor Roger!)
This Evening the Dead were interred with military Honors; and three Outlaws taken in the Battle were hanged at the Head of the Army. This gave great Satisfaction to the Men & at this Time it was a necessary Sacrifice to appease the Murmurings of the Troops, who were importunate that public Justice should be immediately executed against some of the Outlaws that were taken in the Action and in opposing of whom they had braved so many Dangers, & suffered such Loss of lives and Blood.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 66, "A Necessary Sacrifice".  Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Here's a view of the monument itself.  The statue depicts James Hunter, one of the leaders of the Regulation.

Black Pudding

5) Have you ever tried black pudding?  (Photo credit: Ian Tindale, on Flickr.)  I knew nothing at all about it until I read A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES:
The worst part was cleaning the blood: swishing an arm through the dark, reeking depths of the barrel to collect the threads of fibrin that formed as the blood began to clot. These clung to my arm and could then be pulled out and rinsed away--repeatedly. At that, it was slightly less nasty than the job of washing out the intestines to be used for the sausage casings; Brianna and Lizzie were doing that, down at the creek.

I peered at the latest results; no fibers visible in the clear red liquid that dripped from my fingers. I dunked my arm again in the water cask that stood beside the blood barrel, balanced on boards laid across a pair of trestles under the big chestnut tree.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 71, "Black Pudding".  Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
This video shows how to make black pudding, also known as boudin noir or blood sausage.  (Warning: not for the squeamish!)

Here's an article about the history of black pudding.  If you want to try it yourself, you'll find detailed instructions here.  And here's an article from the Daily Telegraph from September 6, 2013, about black pudding making a comeback in British cuisine.

I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts, and please come back next week for more.