A New Year’s Eve Toast to You

Happy New YearHogmanay, a word derived from the old Norse language, became the major winter celebration once the Reformation outlawed Christmas in 16th century Scotland. Hogmanay remains a huge party to this day, though the prohibition against celebrating Yule was lifted in the 1950s.

For many, this part of mid-winter is also a time to pause and reflect on the waning year and on plans and goals for the coming year. In the darkest days of winter, it’s refreshing to turn our attention to new starts, opportunities and possibilities.

I’ve had a great year writing and releasing two new titles, and spending time with friends old and new. I’ll be thrilled if the new year brings more of the same for me and whatever you wish for to all of you.

IMG_0644Wherever you are, whatever your celebratory spirit of choice this evening, I wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!  

Slàinte Mhath!

HIGHLAND SEER Sale!

Have you read the award-winning second book in my Highland Talents series, HIGHLAND SEER?  If not, now is a perfect time to get it for yourself and all your friends!  The Amazon #1 Medieval Historical Romance bestseller is on sale for 99 cents. 

FinalHighlandSeer_w7776

Don’t miss the 99-cent sale! HIGHLAND SEER is available at your favorite vendor:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/186cnLQ
B&N: http://ow.ly/uBNrp
iBooks: http://ow.ly/vwuR6
Kobo: http://ow.ly/vIPVw
AllRomanceEBooks: http://ow.ly/AX4aI
BookStrand: http://ow.ly/AX6C7
The Wild Rose Press: http://ow.ly/AXaa9

Just in Time for the Weekend: Uisge Beatha

We’re back to the Highlands of Scotland today.  Want to add a bit of Scottish flavor to your plans for a romantic weekend?  How about a single-malt tasting party?

Uisge beatha is Gaelic for water of life.  Committed single-malt drinkers consider it to be nothing less than that.  According to the Scotch Whisky Association:

The earliest documented record of distillation in Scotland occurred as long ago as 1494, as documented in the Exchequer Rolls, which were tax records of this time, The quote above records “Eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae”. This was equivalent to about 1,500 bottles, which suggests that distillation was well-established by the late fifteenth century.

The Scotch Whisky Regulations  of 2009 control the production, labelling, packaging, and advertising standards for Scotch whisky in the United Kingdom.  Among many detailed and specific regulations for the process, strength, color and so forth, it defines “Scotch whisky” as whisky that is distilled in Scotland of water and malted barley and other whole grains.  It must mature in oak barrels a minimum of three years.  

If you’re just getting started with single-malts, the chart below, from Malts.com, is a fabulous visual aid to help you choose a whisky to taste and to find your favorites.  It is not a complete list of all the single-malts available from Scotland, but it’s a good place to start.

My husband’s long-time favorite is Bunnahabhain, but lately, perhaps because the weather has turned chilly, he’s taken a liking to Old Pultney.  He says that one is especially fine on a cold golf day as “swing oil” to warm and loosen up the golfers tight muscles – or maybe he means just to loosen up the golfers.  

Unknown

My taste runs to Drambuie – a liqueur made from malt whisky, honey, herbs and spices, or just a wee sip of a single malt, but a friend of ours favors Laphroaig, which smells and tastes like iodine bandages to me.  

That just proves that everyone’s palate is different.  Like wines, single malts express different nuances of flavor that may appeal to one person and not another.   One way to discover your favorite is to host a single-malt tasting party.  An excellent event is Burns’ Night on January 25th.  Much like a wine-tasting, have everyone bring a different bottle (and designated drivers!).  To find the best pairings for the different single-malts, serve a variety of food, whether that includes a noble Haggis or not.  If you’re lucky enough to have plenty of friends in the neighborhood, do a neighborhood single-malt tasting.  Then everyone can simply walk home.  

From malts.com
From www.malts.com

Slàinte mhath!

Blogging from A to Z Challenge: Z is for (New) Zealand

A2Z-2013-BADGE-001Small_zps669396f9

a-to-z-letters-zI’m in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the month of April.  I need your help!  To meet this challenge, I’ll be doing one post a day, working through the alphabet.

Your job is to comment and keep me motivated!  Let me know you’re out there and following along.  Can she make it?  Will she?  Of course she will!  With you as my cheering section, I won’t be stumped by J or Q or even X.

So without further ado, here is today’s post.

550px-NZL_orthographic_NaturalEarth.svgZ is for New Zealand.  Yes, to finish the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, we’re going just about as far from Scotland as it is possible to get on the planet.  As many Scots did, as part of the Scottish diaspora that has continued to this day.  

Actually, Captain James Cook, who first circumnavigated and mapped New Zealand, was half-Scottish, and among his crew were many Scotsmen.   After them came sealers and whalers, some of whom stayed, establishing settlements.  

1839
1839

Organized settlements began in the 1840s.  Most Scots were Lowlanders or former Highlanders who’d been forced off their land earlier and moved to the Lowlands, and who adopted Highland activities and symbols such as clans, kilts, bagpipes and games, considered more interesting and romantic than the history and culture of the Lowlands.   

800px-Romney_Ewe_and_LambThey came for religious and economic reasons.  They were farmers, artisans, miners, weavers, shipbuilders and carpenters, gold miners, and tradespeople of all kinds, looking for a better life than economic conditions in Scotland allowed.  

Gaelic (see G is for Gaelic) was spoken by some but did not withstand the onslaught of English, though some Gaelic terms continue to be used.  Robert Burns’s poetry (see R is for Robert) and Burns Night is celebrated on Jan 25.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAScotland gave New Zealand golf, curling, and Highland games such as tossing the sheaf.  Food and drink include, of course, whisky. But New Zealanders still enjoy porridge, shortbread and scones.

For more on the subject of Scots in New Zealand, click here

Participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge this month has been a lot of fun.  I’ve enjoyed it and learned a lot in the process of researching these short posts.  I hope you have, too! 

Interested in finding the other nearly 2000 blogs participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge?  Click on the title, then scroll down to find the sign-up list.

Blogging from A to Z Challenge: Y is for Year of Homecoming in Scotland

A2Z-2013-BADGE-001Small_zps669396f9

a-to-z-letters-yI’m in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the month of April.  I need your help!  To meet this challenge, I’ll be doing one post a day, working through the alphabet.

Your job is to comment and keep me motivated!  Let me know you’re out there and following along.  Can she make it?  Will she?  Of course she will!  With you as my cheering section, I won’t be stumped by J or Q or even X.

So without further ado, here is today’s post.

Y is for Year of Homecoming in Scotland.  In 2014, there will be a year-long  series of events celebrating all things Scotland.  

There will be plenty of games and cultural events, arts and crafts and ancestral heritage activities.  The year starts with Hogmanay (see H is for Hogmanay) and continues with a Whisky month in May (see B is for Bunnahabhain, I is for Islay, O is for Old Pulteney, U is for Uisge beatha), the Commonwealth Games in July and the Ryder Cup in September.

I want to go!  Maybe I’ll even put on a Blair (T is for) Tartan plaid (K is for) Kilt and walk along the shores of (L is for ) Loch (N is for ) Ness.      

I might even see Nessie!  Or learn some (G is for) Gaelic.  How about you?

Interested in finding the other nearly 2000 blogs participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge?  Click on the title, then scroll down to find the sign-up list.

Blogging from A to Z Challenge: W is for (Rough) Wooing

A2Z-2013-BADGE-001Small_zps669396f9

a-to-z-letters-wI’m in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the month of April.  I need your help!  To meet this challenge, I’ll be doing one post a day, working through the alphabet.

Your job is to comment and keep me motivated!  Let me know you’re out there and following along.  Can she make it?  Will she?  Of course she will!  With you as my cheering section, I won’t be stumped by J or Q or even X.

So without further ado, here is today’s post.

Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots as a young girl
Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots as a young girl

W is for Wooing.  The Rough Wooing, that is – the conflict between Scotland and England and sometime civil war within Scotland.

Henry VIII wanted James V to break the Auld Alliance with France and to turn Protestant.  James refused, so Henry declared war.  James died after the Scottish defeat at Solway Moss in 1542.  

His daughter, now Mary, Queen of Scots, was just days old. Henry attempted to force the Scots to agree to a marriage between his son Edward and the infant Mary.  The Protestant faction in Scotland even signed the Treaty of Greenwhich, agreeing to the marriage.  

stirling castle2   But Scotland’s regent, the Earl of Arran, aided by the Cardinal at St. Andrews, took Mary to Sterling Castle, out of Henry’s reach.  Henry broke the Treaty of Greenwich and went to war.

Mary of Guise, Second wife of Henry IV
Mary of Guise, Second wife of James V

France aided Scotland under the Auld Alliance as Scotland rejected Henry’s advances. After Henry’s death, Edward VI continued the war, but the French-born Queen Mother, Mary of Guise, betrothed her daughter to the heir to the French throne and Mary was absent from Scotland for thirteen years, until after she was widowed. 

All of Henry VIII’s ambitions to control Scotland had failed.  Edward eventually signed a peace treaty with France (and thereby, Scotland) in 1550. It was the last major conflict between Scotland and England before the Union of the Crowns in 1603.

In Scotland, the war was called the “Nine Year’s War.”  The term “rough wooing” comes from a famous remark attributed to George Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly. “We liked not the manner of the wooing, and we could not stoop to being bullied into love,” or, as historian William Patten reported, “I lyke not thys wooyng.”  

Interested in finding the other nearly 2000 blogs participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge?  Click on the title, then scroll down to find the sign-up list.

Blogging from A to Z Challenge: V is for Vikings

A2Z-2013-BADGE-001Small_zps669396f9

a-to-z-letters-vI’m in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the month of April.  I need your help!  To meet this challenge, I’ll be doing one post a day, working through the alphabet.

Your job is to comment and keep me motivated!  Let me know you’re out there and following along.  Can she make it?  Will she?  Of course she will!  With you as my cheering section, I won’t be stumped by J or Q or even X.

So without further ado, here is today’s post.

Nicholas Roerich "Guests from Overseas" 1901
Nicholas Roerich “Guests from Overseas” 1901

V is for Vikings. Vikings began to raid the monasteries in the northern reaches and western islands of Scotland as early as the 8th century.  They came searching for precious metals, slaves and food.  By the 9th century, they were settling and farming, much as they had in Scandanavia, and intermarrying with the local population.  Both Norse and Scot languages were spoken in the western Highlands for many centuries.  

Education Scotland has a wealth of information on Vikings in Scotland.  And if you’re lucky enough to be in Edinburgh, National Museums Scotland is hosting the “Vikings! The Untold Story” exhibit through May 12.

Interested in finding the other nearly 2000 blogs participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge?  Click on the title, then scroll down to find the sign-up list.