Memories of a 2019 GoodReads Challenge: or, the top ten books to read while you’re social distancing

What ho Wee Readers, how are you all doing? Are you trapped at home in quarantine? Or practicing social distancing to protect yourself and or your family? Yeah, my Mum’s got a damaged lung, so I’m right there with you. At times like these the world can seem a terrifying place, almost overwhelmingly so – and I find the best cure for such depressing thoughts, can be found in the pages of a good book.

Wow, that was a far more depressing opening than I thought it would be. Anyway, if you’ve been following my Goodreads account, then you’ll know that I really enjoy their Reading Challenge. At the beginning of 2020, I challenged myself to read a hundred books, which is quite a step up from the thirty I read in 2019. I’m well on my way to completing this year’s challenge, so I’d just thought I’d take a look back at my favorite reads of last year, to try and forget about this year.

10. Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly

This is a collection of essays about the cancelled tv show Firefly, one of two I read over the course of 2019 – though by far this is the superior volume. Mainly because unlike its sequel, it didn’t go on and on about how not having aliens in it made Firefly the greatest sci-fi show ever to exist. Or sneering at the notion that anyone would ever put an alien in their space fiction, let alone actually believe in life on other planets. Which, as someone who is patiently waiting for the mother-ship to return, I find slightly offensive. Anyway, you won’t find any of that nonsense in this book – at least, none that I can remember.

9. Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds: The Musical Drama

So…Michael Sheen’s voice…wow. Anyway, back on topic…I started this post quite a while ago, and then got pulled away to write another essay (I know I’ve said that before, but it’s not just an excuse, it really is what I’ve been doing all this time) and during that interval the world kind of…exploded. Basically, we somehow woke up one day and found ourselves living in a dystopian novel, which is…well…bad whatever, but if it was going to happen, why couldn’t it be ‘The War of the Worlds’ instead? Look I’m not trying to be crass here, I’m well aware how terrible the coronavirus, the mass panic buying of loo roll…for some unexplained reason…and well everything the British government has been doing lately, is. All I’m saying is that I would rather watch Boris Johnson be disintegrated by a Martian, than worry about the bloody coronavirus.

8. Coffee at Luke’s: An Unauthorized Gilmore Girls Gabfest Edited by Jennifer Cruise

So, this is a thing. Rather like the first book on this list, this is a collection of essays; except this time on the topic of Gilmore Girls. Gilmore Girls is one of those shows in which I have a… complicated relationship with. On the one hand I loved the original show, and yet like many of you out there I found the revival lacking in the charm that made the original so appealing. Also, the characters were all awful, and by that, I mean they were all awful people. Where they like that in the original, I don’t remember that. Still the book is well worth a look, even for the most disappointed of Gilmore Girls fans, and I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys digging deeper into their favorite shows.

7. The Silmarillion by J.R.R Tolkien.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s least enjoyable book…there I said it. I’m of two minds about this book, on the one hand nowhere else is J.R.R. Tolkien’s genius most evident, and yet the only way to describe how I manged to finish this is: with great difficulty. Whether or not you enjoy this book really depends on how much you’re invested in the Elves as a people – for you see The Silmarillion is not just the history of Middle-Earth, it’s the History of Middle-Earth as told by the ruling class of Elves. It’s why we never really get a look into the other races unless they’ve had direct contact with the elves. Notice how it’s only the men who live under the Elves sovereignty who are in anyway explored in a meaningful way. This isn’t the story of Middle-earth but rather how the elves perceive it. And nowhere is this more apparent than the story of the petty Dwarves. The petty dwarves were a diminutive race that lived in the continent of Beleriand (the north most tip of middle-earth) during the first age (or at least round about that time, Middle-earth calendars are a lot less straightforward than you’d think). In fact, they were the first people to live in Beleriand, even before the elves – and what did the elves do when they got there? Come on, we all live in a post-colonist world, you know what they did. That’s right, they massacred them…hunted them for sport actually. Claiming all the while that they thought they were animals. While they do stop doing this once they meet the larger dwarves, and realize the creatures they were gleefully slaughtering – which had worn clothes, and held weapons – were not in fact a strange kind of boar. However, they don’t actually seem to feel guilty about what they’d done. In fact, the text itself implies that the petty dwarves had it coming, because they were…unpleasant, and didn’t like anyone. My Valar of the Forge and Earth, why would a people that have been hunted to near extinction, and smeared in the history books, not have a sunny disposition? Madness, don’t they know that the feelings of their murders come first above all things.

Yes, I am a Tolkien nerd, why do you ask?

6. Last Shot: A Han and Lando Novel by Daniel Jose Older

They should have let the cooking robot kill Ben Solo. Out of context that sentence sounds like nonsense, doesn’t it? But trust me, after you read this book, you’ll know what I mean. Anyway, getting down to business. Despite my first impressions of the film I can freely admit that ‘Solo’ is by far and away probably one the weaker members of the Star Wars franchise. Many people have tried to pinpoint the exact reason for this – raging from the sensible to the outright ludicrous – but I have come to the conclusion that ultimately, it was the pacing that let Solo down. Namely, it was originally supposed to be three films, but got squished into one for…some reason…and you can really tell. Despite this, the film had many positive qualities, not least among which was being the only film to note the cruelty many heroes casually throw at droids – I mean it didn’t do it well, but at least it mentioned it. Last Shot is everything Solo should have been: it explores Han Solo’s past but only so much as it pertains to the story, and it gives characters that had previously been killed off before they could do anything more than snark a chance to shine. And most of all, droid abuse and activism was made a central theme and story plot, rather than just something to be giggled at.

5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

The book is better than the show. Yeah, I’ll say it, the show was needlessly dark and depressing and… that second season, oh my god, did I hate that second season. I couldn’t even watch it to the end. Look I know both the book and the show cover heavy topics that need to be taken seriously, like abuse, possible murder and body issues, but somehow the book was able to do that without making every single character completely unlikable. I mean what was with that story-line of Madeline cheating on Ed? She didn’t need more drama in her story, her book story-line was dramatic enough and unique. It wasn’t just another copy and paste affair arch. In conclusion, read the book and skip the show.

4. Revenge of the Sith by Mathew Stover

I love this book. I’ve read it more than once, more than thrice really, and each time it just gets better. A common trend when praising this book, is to imply that it vastly improves upon the original film. However, I’m not going to say that, because quite frankly not only is that kind of petty prequel hate repugnant to me in every way but, I found nothing to hate in the original film. In fact, it’s one of my favourites. What I will say is Mathew Stover’s take on the fall of Anakin Skywalker and the rise of Darth Vader is interesting and new, not better just different – but I found his description of the force, particularly how Obi-Wan experiences it, the most fascinating I’ve ever encountered in any Star Was franchise media, films included.

3. Snape: A definitive Reading by Lorrie Kim

Awesome, just awesome. Severus Snape is the essential base-breaking character. You either love him or loathe him, there doesn’t seem to be any neutral ground on this issue, but that doesn’t matter because Snape a Definitive Reading is the book for both sides of the argument. Whether you love him and want a conformation of why he is so awesome, or you absolutely hate him, but want an insight into what all your crazy friends see in him, this is the book for you.

2. Room by Emma Donoghue

I love this book. I was so, so about the film – since as a visual medium it lost much of the magic that was Jack’s misunderstanding about his situation in the beginning of the story – but the book was fantastic. Now I’m assuming, Wee Readers, that each of you fall into one of two categories. Either you’ve already read this book/watched the film, and know each of the ins and outs of the story, and therefore don’t need me to tell you what you already know; or you have no idea what I’m even talking about. In which case I don’t want to ruin the story for you. So I’ll just say this, if you’re stuck at home at this strange time, pick up a kindle or audible version of this book, sit back and enjoy.

1. The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair

Speaking of good books to read while you’re waiting out the coronavirus. This is, and I don’t think I’m overstating this, the best book published in 2019, hands down. If you’ve been following my blog for a while – hello early Wee Readers – you’ll remember I interviewed the author herself a few months back. If you’re interested go check that out here, or Ailish’s own blog here. There now the plugging is done, onto the real talk of the book.  Without giving away the end – because as we all know, only gypes give out spoilers on the internet – this a book that will not end how you think it will. Whether you are a fan of sweeping Romance, accurate Historical Fiction, Heroines that aren’t a size two, or like me an accurate portrayal of a Scottish accent… this is the book for you. Trust me, Wee Readers, you will not be thinking about the coronavirus while you’re reading this book. Seriously go out and buy this book.

If this wee post has distracted you at all from the ongoing dystopian narrative, we’ve all somehow found ourselves living through, then don’t forget to follow the wee blog if you haven’t already. Also check me out on Twitter – where I am hilarious – Facebook, Pinterest, GoodReads, Tumblr and Instagram. Also check out my Wee Mailing List ,for brand new content. Until next time my Wee Readers, have a bonny day.

The Sunshine Blogger Award…and it’s all mine!!!!!

What ho, Wee Readers! Yes it’s happened, I’ve gotten an award. Finally some acknowledgment on how awesome I am. I’d just like to thank my Mum and my Dad for Home Educating me, and my brother for providing an intellectual sparing partner, and all the friends who had the common sense not to get in my way during my rise to the top. But most of all I’d like to thank Autumn from Mischief and Mjolnir who is the wonderful blogger who nominated me. Seriously go check out and follow her amazing blog right now, or I shall think much less of you from this day onwards.

Okay so acknowledments over, what is the Sunshine Blogger Award?

The Sunshine Blogger Award is an award given to creative, positive and cheerful bloggers by their peers as a token of appreciation and admiration. (Which considering some of my more depressing blogs, I’m a little shocked I got nominated for. Happy, but a little surprised.)

The Rules

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to him/her. (Check)
  2. Answer 11 questions provided by the blogger who nominated you. (Double Check)
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers and ask them 11 new questions. (Mwahhahaha! *cough* I mean, sensible laugh that’s not worrying to my nominees at all.)
  4. Notify the nominees by commenting on one of their blog posts.
  5. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your blog post.

My Questions

  • What would be your dream job?

A published novelist

  • What big thing would you love to do if you had the means?

Buy the Woods and the Loch by my house.

  • If a genie gave you three wishes, what would you wish for?

Wish Number One:  to have Mum’s health back.

Wish Number Two: to have my books published and successful

Wish Number Three: to be able to watch the Mandalorian without paying for it (damn you Disney and your malicious ability to provide excellence).

  • If you had the opportunity to change the world, how would you do it?

Change Trump into a wooden doll.

  • What would you do with a million dollars?

*cracks knuckles* Buy a plane and travel round the world. Buy a castle. Buy a mansion in Italy. Buy tickets to Hamilton and Come from Away. There’s too much to choose! Darn, am I only suppose to pick one, then fine…pay my taxes, and according to JK Rowling become a saint.

  • What would you name your pet dragon?

As I am a firm believer of the inverse law of pet naming – which states that the more fierce the pet, the cuter the name, and vice versa – I here by name my pet dragon: Mr. Tickles.

  • Would you rather time travel to the past or to the future? Why?

Hmm, that’s a hard question, indeed. I do so love history, but there’s the issue of what if you kill your grandparents accidentally. You could stop yourself from being born. And believe me, considering my currently living grandparents, it would be a very hard thing not to kill them, should I ever encounter them in the past. Yet if I go any further than that I’m sure to be hung as a witch. So, it must be to the future I go. Yet even that has its dangers, for if you see what’s going to happen to you, or the world in the future – once you’re home how will you ever be sure that you’re not undoing that timeline with your every action? So if I were to time travel at all, it must be to the future, and it must be a one way trip.

  • What word would your friends use to describe you?

Bubbly

  • What’s your favouratie candy?

Fox’s Glacier Mints

  • What’s your favorite song?

It changes daily – today it is Word Up by The BossHoss, but who knows what it’ll be tomorrow.

  • What are the greatest gifts God has given you this year?

While I’m not particularly religious, so probably wouldn’t phrase it like that,  I can understand when a good thing has happened to me – here are some of them:

  1. My mum coming home from the hospital.
  2. Getting a 73 on my last assignment, when I’d been certain I’d failed it.
  3. Getting my newest short story published – despite many people turning their noses up at the Scots’ dialect of the characters.
  4. Just how many people have been reading and enjoying my blog.

My Nominees’ Questions

  1. Who is your favorite author?
  2. If you could rule one of these five fictional/mythical lands: the Galaxy of Star Wars, King Arthur’s Britain, Westeros, Middle-Earth or Discworld – which one would it be and why?
  3. If you had the powers of a god, what would you do with them?
  4. Which famous historical figure would you have round to dinner?
  5. You’ve been abducted by aliens, and they demand that you take them to your leader – who do you take them to?
  6. If there was a film made of your life story, which famous actor would you want to play you?
  7. If you were trapped in a historical time (presumably your time machine has malfunctioned) what period would you be most likely to survive in?
  8. What is your favorite kind of weather and why?
  9. Chocolate or Caramel?
  10. If you could turn into any mythical creature, which one would it be?
  11. Who are you most grateful to in your life?

The Nominees

Linda Gukicova at Some Photoblog

moviefanman at Movie Fan Man: Cinema Connoisseur

Sophia Ismaa

Eunice C. English at My Parkinson’s Diary

Mia Winhertt at A struggling Author – My Journey with You

JoAnna at Anything is possible

Lolsys Library

amymayj at Sassy Cat Lady

Widdershims at Widdershim Worlds

joanne the geek

Whitneyibeblog at Whitney Ibe Blog!…Always with You

If you’ve enjoyed this touting of my own horn, don’t forget to follow the wee blog if you haven’t already. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and Goodreads. Also check out Mischief and Mjolnir, and my Nominees’ blogs – they’re really worth a check out. Until next time, My Wee Readers, have a bonny day.

Fandoms, more classist than you know

Truth time here Wee Readers, you know what powerful political figure I’m really getting sick of… Harry Potter. Okay, maybe a bit of a clarification needed here – in previous posts, I have made my feelings of one JK Rowling quite clear. I don’t believe she’s a a good person, and I sort of have the impression she’s trying to retroactively ruin her own books. Which, honestly is not the worst thing she’s done recently, but is probably the most weird. I mean horrible, sexist, trans-phobic beliefs are just that – but where’s the motivation for trying to ruin the thing that made you so much money? Sorry, got a bit carried away there, because for once this post is not about JK Rowling – that’s right Ms. Rowling is not the reason I’m so sick of whiny, wealthy Harry Potter. No, that responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of her mildly insane fandom.

Backstory first. I’m a bit of geek, always have been ever since I was a…well, an even smaller wee lassie. And I had the luck of being born just at the right time, Anne Rice was no longer hounding people in their own homes for ‘infringing’ on her copyright, and J.K Rowling had yet to reveal to everybody just what a terrible person she was. It was the age of the fan-fiction. And I, like any 12 or 13 year old with a healthy imagination, got stuck right in. I read a lot of fan-fiction while I was growing up, in fact strangely enough it was one of the things that made me want to be a writer. But here’s the thing, when you read that much fan-fiction you begin to notice patterns, particularly in certain fandoms. The same plots, and or tropes, appearing over and over again from authors so varied they cannot possibly have consulted each other. What do I mean? Well…what if Harry was not as gullible as he seemed? What if he got wise to the manipulations of Dumbledore and / or the Weasleys – say he discovered they were doing something terrible, like …stealing from his bank vault. So thus he decides to break away and become a power in his own right. I hear you say, why Wee Lassie that’s a very specific plot, surely it can’t have been reproduced that many times. Oh how I wish I still had your hope in mankind, but sadly Wee Readers this plot is just one of many such repetitive narratives found with the Harry Potter fandom. Now, I’m not here to judge…people like what they like, and yet you do sometimes have to wonder why? What motivates all these writers to go back to the same plot again, and again?

I focused on the…let’s call it, ‘Non-gullible Harry’ story-line (although I am sure it’s gone by better names than that) because it has the strange peculiarity to have at once everything and nothing at all to do with canon. While in cannon Harry is indeed manipulated, by Dumbledore no less, into sacrificing himself for the good of the many. And yet more often than not, Dumbledore’s faults are exaggerated to such a degree that it almost seems ridiculous that anyone would believe he was a good man. Of course, whatever the argument Dumbledore is not a nice man, he’s barely a good one – despite what J.K Rowling seems to think, he certainly deserves all the bile the fandom can throw at him. However the same cannot be said of the Weasley family – who are so hated in the fandom that they’ve even got a whole trope named after one of them ‘Ron the Death-Eater’. But for a long time I put this down other to sour-grapes about their ship not being cannon, or to the film’s butchery of the character of Ron. And yet that same repetition of plot kept repeating and I notice a troubling detail in many – though certainly not all – of these stories. Namely that when it’s revealed that the Weasleys are using Harry, it’s almost always for wealth and or status of some kind – often specifically stealing from his bank vault. Putting aside that this is complete nonsense when it comes to canon, it always struck me as strange that this is what people focused on as the great injustice that has been done to Harry Potter…his wealth being stolen by the poor. Think about that for a moment, in our world of austerity, food-banks, children being denied benefits if their family already has two children (yeah, that’s a thing now in Britain, go check it out here)- the worst thing you can think of that happened to Harry Potter – The Boy who Lived – is his wealth being stolen by the poor. For Calgacus’ sake! The boy was raised in a cupboard!

Looked through this lens, suddenly all those ‘Weasley-bashing’ fics – not limited to but certainly including the live action adaptions themselves – take on a sinister twist. After all it is a classist writing practice to portray lower-class characters as significantly stupider than middle and upper-class ones. Which I can tell you is certainly what happens in the films to lower-class Ron, compared to middle-class Hermione, and (arguably) upper-class Harry. And I’ve gotta say, this continuous putting down of Ron as stupid or beneath them is really making making me not like Harry Potter or Hermione, or the people that ship that.

So let’s say that all this hate – or rather the peculiar way it comes out in fan-fiction and adaptions – is an underlying classist sentiment, follow me to that peer. Would we then say that this is a problem confined purely to the Harry Potter Fandom? After all, J.K Rowling is a terrible person as I think she’s thoroughly proven by now – and she certainly was one of the loudest voices sneering at the actual left-wing candidates in our modern neo-liberal time; while clomping on to Blair who I’m sorry – no matter what you want to say about anyone else, is an actual war criminal and should be in jail. But no, it would be easy to say that – ridiculously easy – but this problem, for once is bigger than Madame ‘J.K.’ Voldemort; I think it’s more to do with our society as a whole. In our neo-liberal society, wealth has become a virtue in itself, rather than just an abstract fact about a person.

For instance, look at the character of Iron Man. At the time he was first created, which was sometime in the sixties I think, Stan Lee intended to create a character that was something young people would hate – that is, a war profiteer, a figure of the establishment, and a millionaire – and make them fall in love with him. Jump to today, and that idea seems to have worked a tad too well – Tony Stark’s fan-base is larger than most other heroes put together, and he is one of the main power houses’ in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Granted he’s dead now, but that still hasn’t stopped both Disney and Fans alike from gushing about him like he’s the second coming of Jesus-Christ, despite the fact that he’s a morally dubious character at best. Now I’m not saying that a love of Iron Man instantly makes a fan classist (that would be ridiculous) but once again, it’s how this adoration is expressed. Namely by tearing down other superheroes of more humble origins. No better example is found of this then the many fan-fictions dedicated to ‘bashing’ Steve Rogers -the former sickly son of a first generation immigrant, raised in the great depression – or Wanda Maximoff – an orphan from a war torn nation, whose parents were killed by one of Stark’s own bombs – that popped up around the release of Captain America: Civil War. Many of these portraying the millionaire not only as always in the right, but as the victim of his former friends; despite the original film being deliberately opaque in who was actually in the right. I mean god Steve, how dare you put the well-being of your PTSD suffering, formally brain-washed best-friend over the feelings of your privileged work colleague’s feelings.

This post took a very long time to complete – not helped by me being pulled away by yet another assignment half way through writing it – and looking back now, I can see that it comes off as more judgmental of fan-fiction writers and fandoms in general, than I meant it to be. Not all people who write ‘Ron-bashing’ fics do so for reasons anymore sinister than anger over a ‘ship’ and just not liking the character. All characters are flawed by nature, and not everyone is going to gel with the same ones. Same goes for those who like Tony Stark – he’s a funny character, and very hard not to like – trust me I know, I’ve tried. Rather the point of this post is to get people to stop and ask why they express themselves in the way they do. If you hate Ron, or Ginny, or any of the Weasleys so much – why make them steal from Harry Potter’s vault? Why that? And why so often? In the same vain, if you love Tony Stark so much, why act like he is the greatest victim in all the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Why demonize the characters of different classes – and I haven’t even touched upon what many fans do to characters of different races, nationalities and genders – to defend the most privileged one? If he’s so great, why do you need to bother? Why do so many people love this fairly selfish, privileged ( I know this is the second time I’ve used that word, but I feel it’s important to emphasis it) jerk? It has to be more than just that he’s funny, that doesn’t explain the hate. Rather I propose, that this may be an unconscious veneration of the wealthy – something that started out as ‘look at Tony Stark, he’s so rich, isn’t that fun to watch’ quickly became ‘look at Tony Stark, he’s so rich, and therefore better than everyone else’. Ah I see you roll your eyes at me, and you’re probably right… maybe I’m reading too much into this – but look me in the eye and tell me there isn’t something innately classist in a society that venerates Draco bloody Malfoy, over Ron Weasley.

If you’ve enjoyed this wee exploration into some of the classism – even I admit there’s deeper to go with that – within fandoms, or just think I’m full of crap, drop me a note down in the comments and tell me what you think. And don’t forget to follow the wee Blog, if you haven’t already; also you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Goodreads. Until next time Wee Readers, have a bonny day.

12 vegan meals made by a complete amateur

What ho, Wee Readers! I hope you had a good Christmas. If you’ve read my last post you’ll have already guessed that mine has been a bit stressful this year. If it wasn’t the ever increasing difficulty of my course work, then its the mountain of assignments I had due – but I don’t like to complain, at least in a non comedic manner. So, I’ll move on to more entertaining challenges – namely my terrible cooking. Due to some personal matters, I’ve taken over cooking duties for my family. Mwahahahaha , now nothing can stop me from making whatever I want, except budget constraints and general lack lack of talent! *Lightening flashes ominously*…*cough* Anyway, here are the twelve vegan meals made by a complete amateur.

12. Pasta and Raw Sauce

Pasta, carrots and leftover pasta all covered with a raw sauce that would leave even the most hardened of Carnivore’s mouth watering.

Raw Suce composed of:

1 apple, chopped roughly

handful of walnuts

juice of 1 lemon

two or three celery stalks chopped – once again roughly

olive oil

Garlic

But of course you can put all sorts of veg and nuts or seeds in it. Then plop it all together in a mixer – the power of which will depend on how roughly you get to chop your veg. I have a Vitamix so I can chop things however I like – but different brands may vary.

11. Leftover Baked Sweet Potato and Pasta Salad

This is one of the easiest meals I’ve made yet – if you discount the original cooking of the sweet-potatoes. But even then all you do there is, rub olive oil on the potatoes and stick in a pre-heated oven for about an hour. Then boom, delicious, Sweet Potato goodness. They taste so good that usually there’s nothing left come the next day – but this time I got lucky. So I mixed the leftover potatoes with vegan pasta salad – available at any decent Tesco – plumb tomatoes and Quorn Ham. A substance my family refused to eat for ages, because Quorn refused to make their vegetarian range even a little vegan, and their original adds were stupid and condescending. Also they’re made from mold, genetically modified mold. Turns out I really like the taste of mold …mmm genetically modified sin against nature.

10. Roasted Courgette and Tofu with Sweet Potatoe Fries

Now this is one of my favorite dishes to make – mainly because not only is it easy, fairly cheap, almost impossible to mess up, but it’s delicious too. Take two packets of plain Tofu – I use the brand Tofuu, but it’s not a requirement – two or three courgettes, chop them all up into fairly small pieces and put them in a olive oil covered baking tray. After that the original recipe calls for a splash of soya sauce sprinkled on top, which I do recommend if you can handle the salt as it is absolutely delicious – of course not every one can, and we really have too much salt in our diets anyway. So if that’s the case for you, just use more olive oil, works the same.

Put in the oven, wait till everything goes soft and that’s that – one delicious, easy to make, vegan dish, that won’t bankrupt you.

9. Sausages and Mashed Potatoes

I don’t know why I was so nervous about making mash potatoes. They’re the easiest thing in the world to make. You don’t even have to peel them. Just cut off the bad bits, chop them into manageable sizes; boil ’em till they go soft – then add a chunk of vegan margarine and mash like you’re a crazy person. Most fun thing I’ve ever made. As you can see I’ve combined this dish with sausages – vegan of course – and a bag of frozen vegetables. Easy, done!

8. Spaghetti and Soya Balls

The best thing I ever discovered was The Seeds of Change range of sauces – just plop them in a pan, heat ’em up and wallah. This picture here is the Bolognese sauce, paired with spaghetti and soya balls – that is, meatless meatballs.

7. Pasta with Tomato and Courgette Sauce

At number seven, we have the tomato and basil ‘Seeds of Change’ sauce – combined with a chopped courgette and yellow pepper. I know I’ve already done and talked about the ‘Seeds of Change’ brand on this list but this is my favorite sauce of all time – and look! Look how well the photo turned out. I mean you can actually see the steam rising from the sauce, mmm – makes me hungry just looking at it.

6. Pineapple and Mango Smoothie

Now we come to the first of the two smoothies on this list. Just take half a bag of frozen pineapple chunks, and the same amount of frozen mango chunks, combine with three bananas, nuts ( ideally walnuts, because they’re the best, but really any will do), fresh orange juice and coconut water. Then throw it it all in a blender – again I use the Vitamix brand, but any kind of blender will do. Turn up to full blast for a few minutes, and then get ready to pour your fresh new smoothie.

5. Sausage and Potatoe Waffles

I love potato Waffles, I’d have them all day if I could – I could just throw them in the oven , heat them up and have them all day. I witter on like this because there’s not much to say about this meal. Other than the sausages – which take a grand total of maybe eight minutes frying in a frying pan – the rest are so simple and easy I could have done them in my sleep.

4. Black current Smoothie

Blackberries straight from the freezer, three bananas (again), an Avocado (no nuts this time, never put nuts and an Avocado together in a smoothie. I’m not entirely sure why, it’s just one of those cooking rules my Mum told me) lin seeds, fresh orange juice and coconut water. Blend it all up and, be careful not to spill any when you pour it. We done? Great, Next order!

3. Schnitzel, peas & carrots, and sweet potato fries

This ready made schnitzel ( I hope I’m spelling that right) takes about eight minutes to cook in olive oil, but is slightly hard to turn over half way through due to the increased side. Also the tendency of its skin to stick to the pan doesn’t help either on that front. Joining it on the plate is sweet potato fries and garden peas & baby carrots.

Sweet potato and Tomato Soup

Funny story – I burned myself making this soup, and not a small one either – my entire arm was covered with the boiling stuff. That will teach me to fill the blasted thing as much as I did. My dad did the same thing when he made this soup a week or so later, except because he didn’t fill it up so high, he only got a splash on the hand – ah well, live and learn. Scalding burns along my arms aside, this is a delicious soup made of sweat potatoes, tomato, celery, garlic and a pinch of sault. Cook up first in a pan untill all the vegetables are soft – and then throw it in a blender and hope you don’t burn yourself when you take the lid off after a througher blending.

1 Christmas!!!!!

Yes, I had originally planned to make this an entirely separate blog post by, but I’ve been very sick lately and I released I was falling behind on my planned schedule. Also, turns out when you’re cooking a meal as involved as Christmas lunch you may or may not forget to take pictures while you’re doing it. Ah well, it was a fantastic meal anyway and makes the perfect closing piece for this wee list of mine. Alright, the dishes making up these grand piece de resistance are as follows…

Roast Potatoes

Generally you would boil the potatoes first, before you roast them in olive oil – however if you chop them up very small you can skip the boiling part and cut the time of cooking down by half.

Sprouts

Funny story, I actually meant to cook chestnuts and sprouts, but it was the first time I ever cooked them and I bought the wrong sort of chestnuts – they had shells. Still the sprouts were good regardless, I don’t know why people make such a fuss about them, they were awesome.

Pigs in a blanket

Ready made.

Stuffing Balls

Ready made by Linda McCartney – check ’em out.

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips with added Garlic segments

These are simple, just cut them into manageable slices, place ’em on an oiled baking tray; sprinkle some oil oil, add your peeled garlic segments. No need to chop those, they taste just as good when you don’t. Plop it all in the oven and wait about an hour – same as the potatoes.

Bread Sauce

This needs to be begun the day before, and cooked on Christmas day. Break up at least part of a bread-loaf, into a baking tray. My Mum can’t handle Gluten, so I made my breadcrumbs from a non-gluten loaf, but it’s not a requirement. Then cut an onion in half (after pealing first of course) and stick cloves into each side, until both rather more resemble hedgehogs than any kind of onion. From there your going to pour soya milk – or your own choice of milk alternative – over the breadcrumbs and onion halves until you get a nice gloopy mixture. You can add cinnamon stick and pepper of course – but its not vital to the dish. Then just cover the dish with foil, and stick it in the oven on Christmas day.

Turkey Roast

Ready made – ah the age of the Vegan era has truly begun. Soon were will run the world and now everyone else will have to put up with condescending articles, telling them them their diet is lacking. See how they like it! *evil laugh while lightening flashes in the background*…*cough* *cough* Sorry I blacked out for a moment, what did I just say? Oh no, she’s arisen…my inner manic Vegan!

And Cranberry Sauce

Out of a jar, I don’t see the need to make cranberry sauce from scratch.

And that’s that, all twelve of the pictures, I remembered to take, of the food I made while I was in charge of cooking. I still am of course, and I began to make far more competent looking meals than these, but then that really wouldn’t go with the theme of the post. Anyway, if this list of edible vegan goodies has left you hungry for more don’t forget to follow the wee blog if you haven’t already. Or follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and check out my Facebook, Goodreads and Tumblr pages. Until next time, my wee readers, have a bonny day.

Side note: apology to those who were surprised when this post disappeared off the internet – my WordPress app was acting up and switched it to draft. Still it’s back up now 🙂

We now interrupt your regular scheduled programming with a message from a Wee Lassie

What Ho My Wee Readers – I’m back, and I haven’t died or vanished from the face of the earth. Unfortunately my course work became somewhat overwhelming – so I had to make some cutbacks on the rest of my work, and the blog lost out mainly because there isn’t a deadline for the work I do here.

Anyway, happy times ahead because I’m back, along with some exciting news. Check out my Stories page and you’ll find a brand new addition – my short story, ‘The Squirrel’ was accepted for issue 7 of the online magazine, Route 7. Check it out and marvel at the authentic use of Doric. Also, we’ll have some new blog posts hopeful up soon, including but not limited to:

12 Vegan Meals cooked by a complete amateur

Due to some personal reasons, I’ve taken control of the cooking for my family – behold and watch the terror unfold before you

The Top Ten Books of a Wee Lassie’s GoodReads Challenge

If you’ve followed me on GoodReads than you might know that I’ve finally completed my Reading Challenge for the year – this is my top ten favorites.

Cool Motive, Still Murder: an in-depth look at why the Sherlock Christmas special is not feminist, it’s stupid

I think this one speaks for itself.

A World without Aliens: why what works for Firefly, can’t work for Star Wars

Ditto with this one

Friends: This is not the Best Day of Your Life

Din’t you ever find it both annoying and very strange how Friends treated the desire to be a bride, not only as expected for women, but so commonplace that even women from completely different countries, can understand it in each other, even over their own future husbands. Yes, it’s another Friends post – but if the Friends’ writers didn’t want lengthy think pieces twenty five years after their show began, then they should have taken more care to make it age better.

The Amateur Vegan Cook: Christmas Lunch addition

Yes, that’s right I’m cooking Christmas Dinner this year

And since J.K Rowling is kicking up dirt again – surprise everyone who hasn’t read my earlier post, J.K. Rowling is supporting a transphobe – I’ll be talking a bit about her work, and just well…all the things I kind of just let slide first time round, because of the lightening bolt shaped stars in my eyes. Also the fact that I was basically six when I started reading the Harry Potter books.

And that’s about it – a story published, an update that I’m not quite dead yet, and some plans for the future.

If you’ve enjoyed this Wee refresher into the insanity which is my mind, don’t forget to follow the wee blog if you haven’t already. Also check me out on Instagram and Twitter, along with my Goodreads, Pinterest and Tumblr accounts. Thank you for your infinite patience during this long hiatus between posts that we’ve somehow found ourselves in – I’ll try not to take so long with the next one. So, until next time my wee readers, have a bonny day.

7 impertinent questions for Ailish Sinclair

Set in the the late sixteenth century, at the height of the Scottish witchcraft accusations, The Mermaid and the Bear , by Scottish Author Ailish Sinclair – out now in paperback and Kindle – is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.

Now I know what you’re thinking – well that sounds terrific Wee Lassie, I would really like to read that! But why are you talking about it? Well, never fear my Wee Readers , I shall explain all. Recently I’ve received some very exciting news – fellow Author, Ailish Sinclair, has had her book – The Mermaid and the Bear – published. I was very excited anyway, as I am when any fellow writing Lassie gets her book published – especially when they mention me in the acknowledgements ( buy it and check it out, I’m mentioned under my birth name Charlotte) – and then something occurred to me. Ho, ho, I said, this is something my Wee Readers should know about, after all by your very nature you are readers. So thus, with the idea in place I approached Ailish herself, and formed a plan.

The basic idea for this post was an interview, which is kind of what we ended up with, but with a bit of twist. As we already knew each other, the questions didn’t have to be quite so formal, they could be…down right impertinent even. Okay, let’s start with a Wee Introduction: Ailish Sinclair is an author from the north of Scotland – like yours truly – who was trained as a dancer in London; before returning back up North, where she taught ballet and met her husband. She now lives beside a loch with said husband and two children, surrounded by castles and stone circles, where she writes and dances (yes, still) and apparently eats a lot of cake.

Ailish loves Stone Circles

Her book is refreshingly also set up North in the region of Aberdeenshire, in the late sixteenth century – during a period of our history that’s not often talked about by the wider world, or indeed Scotland itself: the Aberdeen Witchcraft panic of 1597. There’s a real feeling of authenticity when it comes to Sinclair’s writing: from the clear amount of research that has gone into every aspect of late sixteenth century life, right down to the accurate Scottish dialect that many of the characters speak in. I’m not going to harp on too long about this, since it’s neither the focus of the book nor this post , but it’s very rare to find Doric in a modern book – which if you’re like me and live in a place where that’s just how people talk , it’s nice to not be left out for once. Another inclusive detail in Ailish’s novel is the fact that her heroine – Isobell – is a plus sized women, and this is never treated like a problem, or something about her that needs to be fixed, by the narrative. All body type inclusion, yeah!

Alright, enough with the introductions already, on with the impertinent questions.

7. As a fellow Writing Lassie from up here in Scotland, would you say your book has something more, or deeper, to say about Scottish culture than can be found in other books?

I live in Aberdeenshire, where the book is set, and have done so for most of my life. I hope my deep love for the countryside comes across in the narrative, and that I’ve captured the way people speak and behave towards one another here. I had to tone down the local language somewhat to make it easier to understand. ‘Ken fit like?’

6. You’ve mentioned before in other interviews that you become quite intense with your research when you’re writing a Historical Novel. So, my question is, what’s the maddest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?

Eating primroses? Sliding down dangerous cliff sides in bare feet? Cross examining the poor wardens in St Nicholas Kirk? I’m not really sure about the maddest. The hardest part was knowing when to stop. When is enough information enough? Research could go on forever, but once the story has formed firmly round it, and you know what sort of underwear everyone was wearing, it’s probably time to write the book.

5. Now that you’re getting published, and you can look back on your career with a clinical eye – what would you say was the first moment you felt like a real writer?

I actually think the most precious writing time is well before publication is even being considered. It’s that first draft. Anything is possible then. Fall in love with your story and your characters and they will lead you to all sorts of places you never imagined possible. So, to answer your question: when I was working on the first draft, and wanting to write it ALL the time, rushing home to get back to it, thinking about it ALL the time… that’s when I felt like a real writer.

4. As a confessed recovering Chocoholic, was it terribly difficult to leave the substance out of The Mermaid and the Bear?

Well, I felt deeply sorry for my poor characters that they couldn’t have any chocolate of course, but not so sorry that I withheld it from myself. I have to confess that I am, in fact, not in recovery, and have no intention of ever being so!

3. Your new novel – The Mermaid and the Bear – deals with the long-forgotten Aberdeen witchcraft panic of 1597. By choosing this subject you have brought the voices of women unjustly forgotten by history into the public eye again. What I want to ask is, is there a feminist undertone to your choice of subject matter; and if not, is there some other reason you were drawn to that particular area of Scottish history?

Given that 85% of those accused of witchcraft in Scotland were women, yes, there is definitely a feminist side to the novel. Women supporting each other, standing strong against misogyny, and believing they have the right to aspects of life that were the dominion of men at the time, and even now, do come into the story.

2.Okay, let’s dig a little deeper. If you were put on the spot, like I’m doing to you now, and you were forced to choose a person or persons (plural), that you really admired in that part of history. Who would it be?

Anyone who stood up to oppression and abuse. These people rarely make it into the recorded history of the time, so historical fiction provides scope to write about bravery, love and heroic acts as they might have happened. When bad events occur there are always those who stand strong and true, often among those who are persecuted themselves.

1. Alright final question, and then I’ll let you go. Would you say that the romantic hero of The Mermaid and the Bear – The Laird – resembles anyone you know in real life?

While aspects of his character were inspired by a local historical Laird, my fictional Laird is a little bit like my own husband. I am lucky to be married to a man who accepts people as they are, doesn’t judge anyone on outward appearance, and has an open heart and mind, just like Thomas Manteith!

Ailish Sinclair and Husband
Ailish and Husband house shopping

I love that final answer, it always make me well up – especially if you’ve read her mention of him in the acknowledgments.

If you’ve enjoyed these impertinent questions to the emerging Author Ailish Sinclair, remember to follow my wee blog if you haven’t already, and check me out on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and my Tumblr account – or sign up to the Wee Mailing List. However if you’ve also enjoyed the long suffering answers of Ailish herself, remember to follow her wee blog here and sign up to her Mailing List here. Also check her out on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest , Facebook and Goodreads. And don’t forget to check out the The Mermaid and the Bear, now out on Kindle and Paperback where all decent books are sold. Until next time my Wee Readers, have a bonny day.

The One with the Male Nanny: The Complicated relationship between Friends and Toxic Masculinity

If you’ve read my previous post on the subject, you’ll remember that while I and many in today’s 2019 society greatly enjoy Friends – it doesn’t mean we’re blind to it’s flaws. Indeed, looking on it with today’s socially conscious mindset it is a piece of art with many flaws. Homophobic, Trans-phobic, Sexist, low-key racist; name a terrible thing to be, and friends probably made that kind of joke. But by far the most interesting flaw to discuss, at least from an intellectual perspective, is the show’s relationship with toxic masculinity. With the other kinds of prejudices on display, the show makes a joke about it – has the nerve to think it’s funny – and moves on to the next mildly to extremely offensive joke. However when it comes to the subject of Toxic Masculinity, the show seems on some level to not only be aware of it, but to condemn it. And yet, we still gotta make those jokes.

What do I mean? Well let’s take a look at one episode in particular, to gain a little better insight into this strange phenomenon – the sixth episode of season 9 : The One with the Male Nanny. First, a brief plot synopsis before we get to the real meat of the episode. After slogging through hordes of disappointing applicants, Rachel finally finds the perfect nanny for her Ross’ daughter Emma – but there’s just one problem, he’s played by Freddie Prinze Jr. That’s the main story anyway, there is the secondary story of the Episode with Chandler being upset that Monica called one of her co-workers ‘the funniest guy she’s ever met’; however since it only briefly crosses narrative streams with the titular plot-line, I won’t be going too deep into that .

Ross takes an immediate dislike to the new Nanny – named Sandy ; mainly because he is performing a role traditionally considered part of the feminine domain, child care. However Sandy is also a very sensitive man, he cries unashamedly when he is happy – as when he is accepted for the position – and sad – as when he is remembering his last charge. He also cooks, plays the recorder, and has the audacity to do all this while still being completely heterosexual. Ross can barely stand to be in the same room as Sandy, and laments long and hard to whoever will listen of the weirdness of having a male nanny – although never within said nanny’s earshot, such is the coward’s nature. This is a pretty standard move when it comes to Ross, he is the guy that made such a fuss when his toddler son started playing with a barbie doll. What is strange about this situation however, is Rachel’s reaction. She loves Sandy and whole heatedly endorses his non-traditional version of masculinity, being a factor in her child’s development. This is a stark removal from the Rachel Green who once dumped a boyfriend for crying too much; or regularly belittles her male friends when they step even the tiniest bit off the narrow heteronormative version of masculinity. I mean she was right there with the rest of them glaring down at Ross and Joey, when they’d fallen asleep together. That’s it, nothing sexual, just took a nap on the same couch.

So, what does this sudden turn around in one of the main characters of the show mean? Well probably many things, not least among which Rachel doesn’t find Sandy attractive – and thus doesn’t require him to live up to her idea of the ideal man. But the notion I’m going to focus on here, is the underlying message of the story-line. Namely that Ross is wrong. He is wrong to hate Sandy and he is wrong to try and encourage that hate in others – in other words he is wrong in his Toxic Masculinity. A fact that is underscored in the episode’s ending, when Ross breaks down in Sandy’s arms after recounting the abuse his father heaped on him, for not living up to the masculine ideal . Now I know what you’re thinking, Wee Lassie I thought Friends had a bad relationship with Toxic Masculinity – this all sounds really good. Ross finally realizes that he’s been continuing the circle of abusive toxic Masculinity began by his awful father – and he can finally break free of it and become a better man, nay a better person all round. Except that’s not what happens, this is Sandy’s last episode and these themes, or Ross’ connection to them, will never be brought up again. So what can we really take away from this episode? Toxin Masculinity is bad, yes absolutely, but does that lesson have any impact on the viewer, if it has none on the rest of the series?

Femininity in men continues to be mocked. Chandler continues to be called gay – with the implication that this is somehow a bad thing – if he expresses so much as the barest interest in culture ; and the men can’t so much as hint at their love for each other, without the women implying that their masculinity is somehow lessened from the action. At the end of the episode, Sandy still looses his job because he is a man working in a non-traditionally male occupation, and that is what the audience must take away from it. The Writers’ intention, either good or ill, means nothing if the product as a whole cannot reflect it. Still, even if it was only for one brief moment, at least they tried.

If you’ve enjoyed this strange analyse of a 90’s flawed tv show, remember to follow the Wee blog if you haven’t already. Also check me out on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads , Instagram, and Tumblr. Also check out the Wee Mailing List for all new rants, photos and more. Until next time my Wee Readers, have a bonny day.

The Top Ten Musicals that will leave you Bawling like a Wee Bairn

I love to cry. Alright maybe that’s a tad simplistic, I don’t love to cry – I love to be moved enough to cry. Why is this important? Well, my Wee Readers, after I published my last post, I felt lost as to what I should write about next. So, needing a break I partook in one of my favorite past times – listening to depressing musicals. I know, odd thing to do but it’s very cathartic, so I still recommend it. Just as I shed the last of my tears for a particular heartbreaking rendition of ‘Me and the Sky’, I realized that I had the answer right there before me. So thus, with little ceremony I present to you the Wee Writing Lassie’s Top Ten Musicals that will leave you Balling like a Wee Bairn.

10. Les Miserables

Based on the 1862 Victor Hugo novel of the same name, Les Miss tells the stories of the escaped convict Jean Val Jean ; his adopted daughter Cosette and her love for the revolutionary Marius; and most loudly of all the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris. Of course, I most likely don’t have to tell you any of this since Le Mis, just so happens to be one of the longest running and most popular musicals of all time. It is also, as you may be able to guess by the name, one of the most miserable . The most lovable character (Jean Val Jean) dies at the end, in fact most of the characters in Les Miss die at some point in the play – only four people are alive by the end,and shockingly that’s an improvement from the book. Thus with the ringing of the audiences handkerchiefs, Les Miserable proudly earns it’s spot on this terribly depressing list. In fact the only reason it’s not higher on the list, is because I’ve listened to it so often in my life, I’m practically dead inside when it comes to this magnificent musical. Seriously, play me the final song and I won’t cry at all…these aren’t tears, I have something in my eye.

Song I cried at the Most: Final

Created by: Claude-Michel Schonberg, Alain Baublil, and Jean-Marc Nated (Orginal French Musical) Cameron Macintosh (The Wider known production.)

9. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor dream-coat

Based on a story from the Bible ‘s Book of Genesis – Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor dream-coat tells the story of how parental favoritism and neglect can ruin a family. Joseph, as the favorite son of Jacob, is terribly favored over his eleven brothers and his sister isn’t even mentioned in the play. Culminating with the brother’s snapping after Joseph is gifted with the said Technicolor dream coat, and selling their brother into slavery. Despite the overwhelmingly depressing tone of that premise, for the most part this is a fairly up-beat musical. In fact I would have heisted to include it on my ‘weeping’ list at all, if it weren’t for… that song. The song that makes you realize that everything you’ve been watching up to this point, has not t been a bouncy romp round Biblical times, but in fact very, very depressing. Set just after Joseph’s Master (Potiphar) has discovered his wife sexually abusing Joseph and thrown the boy into jail because of it; Close Every Door to Me shows the audience both the depth of Joseph’s despair, and exactly what kind of musical they’ve actually been watching.

Song I cried at the Most: Close every Door to Me

Created by: Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice

8. Hadestown

Hadestown basically retells the classic tragic Myth of Eurydice (who gets trapped in the Underworld) and Orpheus (who tries and fails to rescue her from said Underworld) in a Great Depression-era inspired post-apocalyptic setting. Which now I’ve said it out loud, is a little weird, but it’s a moving musical so we’ll just roll with it. My only issue with the play, and even then it’s a minor one, is it’s depiction of Hades as the out-and-out villain of the tale. In the original myth he wasn’t – Eurydice just dies, he doesn’t trick her down there at all. Why would he? He’s got enough work with the spirits that are actually supposed to be down in Hades. That being said the play did need some kind of villain – other than Orpheus and Eurydice’s own stupidity – and Patrick Page does such a brilliant job of portraying the King of the Underworld, I’ve even begun to picture him when I think of Hades himself. Plus, the story has such a good build up to the tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice, that I’m still going to burst into tears at the first note of that final song regardless.

Song I cried at the Most: Road to Hell (Reprise)

Created By: Anais Mitchell

7. The Hunchback of Notredame

Based on Victor Hugo’s first novel Notre-Dame de Paris and the 90’s Disney Film Hunchback of Notre-Dame, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame tells the story of both the corrupt priest (yeah he’s back to being a priest in this version) Claude Frollo and his severely abused Nephew Quasimodo. Yes that’s right, in this version Quasimodo is the son of Frollo’s brother. Other than that the story follows the same beats as the Disney film – Quasimodo grows up locked in Notre-Dame until he escapes to go watch the Festival of Fools, where he meets Esmeralda. Frollo calls for Esmeralda’s arrest, and she takes refuge in Notre-Dame. Then she falls in love with Phoebus, for some reason. Eventually she’s captured by Frollo, who threatens to burn her alive if she doesn’t sleep with him. Yep, pretty much the same thing as the Disney film. Oh, and *spoiler* Quasimodo dies at the end. Wait…what? Who asked for that back? I know it happens in the book, but so does a lot of other terrible stuff and they left that out. Why? Why? Why do you do this to me Disney? I’m going to go and listen to Made of Stone now, have myself a good cry.

Song I cried at the Most: Made of Stone

Created By: J, Scott Lapp (directed American Production) and James Lapin (book)

6. Dear Evan Hansen

Created by the same minds behind the Greatest Showman, Dear Evan Hansen is a show about social anxiety, loneliness, and most of all teen suicide. Now I don’t really have any experience or proper knowledge of suicide, so I won’t go in-depth with that aspect – but I will just say this, you will be crying from start to finish. Except maybe during the obligatory funny song that every musical feels obliged to include, even if it doesn’t suit the material. Fitever, I’m just going to go listen to ‘Requiem’ in the corner, no one mind me.

Song I cried at the Most: Requiem

Created By: Benji Pasek and Justin Paul

5. Hamilton

Come on you all know this one by now, sing it with me! How does a bastard, orphan son of a whore…damn it, I swore I wouldn’t swear on this blog. Oh well, I guess it doesn’t count if it’s Broadway. *cough* Anyway, ‘Hamilton’ by Lin Manual Miranda is a hip hop musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton – founding father and complete idiot. I’m sorry but come on, a lot of his problems he brought on himself. I mean for god’s sake, say no to the deadly duel Alexander, say no! There is no outcome where this ends well for you! Sorry, I have very strong emotions when it comes to this musical. But so would you, if you had to listen to songs like ‘It’s Quiet Uptown’, God damn you Lin Manuel Miranda and your brilliant mind. You, beautiful, beautiful person.

Song I cried at the Most : It’s Quiet Uptown

Created by: The One, the singular, Lin Manual Miranda

4. Falsettos

Based on the ‘Marvin Trilogy’ of one-act Off-Broadway musicals by James Lapine and William Finn – Falsettos (created by the same people) tells the story of Marvine, his ex-wife Trina, Trina’s current husband and Marvin’s former Psychologist Mendel, their son Jason and Marvin’s lover Whizzer Brown. Well that’s the players introduced – most of them anyway – so what’s the play about. Well, it’s about a gay couple in the eighties so…Aids, it’s about Aids. And who dies? Because of course somebody dies. Why, the most likable character – because of course. I don’t mean to sound flippant, or rather I do but it’s for a very good reason. If I don’t tell you about this musical in a light and breezy manner, my keyboard is going to get so wet, from all the tears, and I can’t replace it again. Which was partly why it was so difficult to choose a song I cried at the most, the whole second act makes me cry! But finally I settled on two that tipped the scales from enjoyable tears to abject misery. Enjoy!

Song/s I cried at the Most: You Gotta Die Sometime & Falsettoland (reprise)

Created by: William Finn (music) and James Lapiue (book)

3. Waitress

Based on the 2007 Film of the same name, Waitress was created by Sara Bareilles and Jessica Nelson. Jenna Hunterson (played by Keri Russell in the original film) the title Waitress discovers herself pregnant by her abusive husband Earl (played by Jeremy Sisto in the original film); and begins an affair with her gynecologist (played by Nathan Fillion in the original film). Desperate to make a better life for her and her unborn child, Jenna can see no other way out but the prize money from an upcoming pie baking contest. Now, was I first attracted to this musical due to Nathan Fillion’s involvement with the original film…how dare you make that entirely accurate assumption! You are such a cleaver person! But in all seriousness, this a deeply moving musical culminating (at least as far as my exhausted tear ducts are concerned) in the heart wrenching song ‘She used to be Mine’ – in which Jenna griefs for the women she used to be, and reflects on the women she is now. Oh God, I’m gonna start crying again….turn away, don’t look at me!

Song I cried at the Most: She used to be Mine

Created by: Sara Bareilles (music & lyrics) & Tom Kitt (music)

2. next to normal

Well, we’re really in the darker end of the musical thematic spectrum now my Wee Readers. The Rock Musical called ‘next to normal’ is about a women with bipolar disorder and delusional episodes. In soul-tugging efficiency the musical examines the effect this has on not only our main character but her family as well. By doing so it covers uncomfortable topics such as grief, depression, suicide, drug abuse, and modern psychiatry’s ethics. You may have noticed that I’ve been deliberately vague about the actually plot, and no that is not a mistake on my part my Wee Readers – I’m not going to tell you it. Because to do so would be revealing a twist so awesome, it would be an actual crime to story telling as a whole. And as a writer myself I feel I cannot justify doing that – so I guess you’re just going to have to listen/watch the musical yourself.

Song I cried at the Most – that doesn’t give away the Plot Twist: You Don’t Know

Created by: Brian Yorkey (book & lyrics) & Tom Kitt (music)

1. Come from Away

And now we come to the one that started it all. Yes, that’s right my Wee Readers, this is the musical that gave me the idea for this blog post, and why you may ask? Because I cry at every single song on this thing’s soundtrack. Come From Away is a Canadian musical, set in the week following 911. Based on the true story of the 38 planes that were ordered to land in the small town of Gander in the Canadian province of Newfoundland. All the characters are at least partly based on real people, who are probably still alive today, and I can promise you – you’ll cry at every single one of these songs. So if you’re anything like me and enjoy good cry every now and then, then I’ve just turned you on to the perfect musical, however if you’re not then I’ve probably just warned you away from it…so…win all round really

Song I cried at the Most: Me and the the Sky

Created by: David Hein & Irene Sankoff

Well, here ends our tear sodden list my Wee Readers – I know, I know there are so many wonderfully depressing musicals that didn’t even get a passing mention, but such is life. If I included every single musical that ever made me cry, I’d never get this post finished and nobody wants that. But if you can think of some miserable masterpiece that really should have been included – mention it down below in the comments, and I’ll see if I agree. If you’ve enjoyed crying along with me, remember to follow the Wee Blog if you haven’t already, and check me out on Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr; not to mention my Facebook and Goodreads pages. And please sign up to the Wee Mailing List for all new rants, photos and more. Until next time my Wee Readers, have a bonny day.

The Power of the Family : or why the heck is Friends still so popular in 2019

Okay, bit of a History lesson here – flick back your clock to a little year called 1994. Tony Blair (the War Criminal) had just been made Labour party leader ; yours truly was taking her first breath in this very strange world of ours, and a little American tv show set in New York, first began airing. Ah Friends, you beautiful…beautiful mess of a pop culture phenomenon. There’s just so much of you that has aged so very badly, such to the extent that each of these poorly aged elements could fill separate blog posts all their own. Shall I list them? Honestly it would be quicker to name the elements that haven’t aged badly but I’ve already planned this post so, onward we go.

There’s the fact that despite living in one of the most diverse cities in America, the friends cast are – baring an occasional recurring or bit character – monolithically white. The sheer amount of gay jokes running throughout many of the episodes of the ten seasoned show is really uncomfortable to watch, particularly on a streaming service like Netflix where you can watch episodes in quick succession…and I’m saying that as a straight woman. The jokes directed at Chandler’s Dad in particular were cringe-worthy at their best. Not to mention t it’s confusing relationship with toxic masculinity – but I’ll get more into that in a later post. Yet, all these terrible things are in no way unique to the show Friends: things like indoctrinated racism; homophobia, Trans-phobia; sexism and encouraging of toxic masculine behaviors were not uncommon in the early 90s to early 2000s – the time in which Friends aired on tv – I’d go even so far as to say they were commonplace. But what is unique to Friends – though please feel free to correct me in the comments if you feel otherwise – is that none of these things seem to have lessened it’s popularity over time. At least not in any significant way. We may no longer laugh at the gay jokes, but a lot of us are still laughing at Friends.

So what we have to ask ourselves is, why? What made Friends so special? Why has it lasted so long while other shows fall by the wayside? Well, honestly there’s probably a plethora of answers to that question, not least being the strong sense of nostalgia present in both Millennials (who grew up with it) and Generation X & Baby Boomers (who were the original target demographic). However, that would be a very different blog post than the one I have planned; so instead we’re getting freaky meta here and looking instead at the underlying theme of the show. *Evil laugh, while lightening crashes in the background.* And there’s no running away, I’ve already locked all the doors.

Okay so, themes. What is the underlying theme of Friends? Could it be the Power of Star Crossed Lovers symbolised by the Ross and Rachel story-line? Nope, by the end everyone but the writers was kind of sick of that. Could it be the power of friendship? After all that is the name of the show. Well, sort of, but I’d like to go one step beyond that in my dissection of it’s theme. Because the “Friends” ironically are not just regular friends, their deep love and affection for one another goes far beyond that. When it really comes down to it Friends isn’t just a show about friendship, but about a group of people that became each other’s family. Thus the Theme is not just the power of friendship or family, but the power of the found family.

We can see this especially clearly when we look at the Series’ Thanksgiving episodes. In the first Thanksgiving episode – season 1’s ” The One where the Underdog Gets Away” – a suspicious amount of coincidences have to line up so that the Friends’ are forced to have Thanksgiving together. Ross and Monica’s parents have to go on holiday, and therefore be unable to host ; Joey has to star in an embarrassing add, and thus have his whole family believe he has a VD; Phoebe’s Grandmother and her boyfriend have to celebrate Thanksgiving in December; and finally most notably, Rachel has to miss her flight so that’s she unable to attend her family’s Thanksgiving Ski trip. However, notice that this is the only episode where these great leaps of coincidences have to happen. Starting from Season 3 onward – since season 2 didn’t really have a proper Thanksgiving episode – it never once occurs to the Friends to eat Thanksgiving Dinner anywhere else. We can see this most distinctly in the Final Thanksgiving Episode – Season 10’s ” The One with the Late Thanksgiving” – where upon hearing that Monica and Chandler just don’t have the energy to host Thanksgiving, Phoebe decides its easier to trick Monica into it, rather than make alternative arrangements for herself. This, despite the fact that she is married to Mike at this point and thus does have someone else to have Thanksgiving Dinner with. A fact that’s even more true for the others, and yet, the possibility is never even once considered.

The affection of the found family over the traditional birth family is repeatedly shown throughout Friends’ 10 season run. A particular notable example being when Joey, and then Chandler, walk Phoebe down the isle – when her step-father is unable to do so. Despite the fact that only Ross and Monica are actually related, these people are each other’s real family. In fact it’s interesting to note that whenever a biological family member does appear on screen, trouble is never far behind. Think Jack and Judy Geller – Ross & Monica’s abusive parents introduced in the episode ‘The One With The Sonogram At The End’ – who always leave to the sound of Monica’s tears, particularly in the earlier episodes. Notably in the episode ‘The One with the Cuffs’ it is Phoebe who comforts and builds Monica back up, after she has yet again been ridiculed and belittled by her own mother. Also consider Rachel’s sisters’ Jill and Amy – who made their debuts in the episodes ‘The One With Rachel’s Sister’ (Jill) and ‘The One With Rachel’s Other Sister’ (Amy) – who give us an insight into how awful Rachel might have become if she had never found her true family . The only time we see Joey’s parents is when his father is cheating on his mother with another woman ; and of course who could forget Ursula, evil twin of our beloved Phoebe. Even Ross and Monica – brother and sister though they may be – were not at all close when they were children. With Monica even claiming that she hated her brother back then; and it wasn’t until they were adults, and away from the toxic influence of their abusive parents, that the two siblings were able to move past that history and find each other again.

I’m not saying that the love and affection these very different people show to one another, which leaves the show with an uplifting warmth not found in every sitcom then or today, excuses all the more unsavory aspects of the show. All I’m saying is it’s one explanation for why we still continue to love this weird show, Twenty Five Years after it’s original airing.

Alright, that’s me done – I’ll unlock the doors now. If you’ve enjoyed this trip down nostalgia lane and haven’t already fled, remember to follow my wee blog, if you haven’t already. Also check me out on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr and now my brand new Goodreads account. Also sign up to the Wee Mailing List for all new photos, rants and more. Until next time my Wee Readers, have a bonny day.

Moving Round the North: or the eight places in Aberdeenshire you should see before the world ends

What ho, Wee Readers both old and new. My last post was let’s face it, interesting but a bit of downer all round – so I resolved to write about something a bit more cheerful. But that left the question, what exactly? I have things to say about, many different topics and no doubt you’ll hear about all of them in time – but they often tend to descend into a bit of a rant. And I didn’t really feel like doing that so soon after my last epic one. And then like a shining light descended from on high, it came to me. Scotland, specifically the North of Scotland. What on Earth am I talking about? Well, sit down and I shall explain.

If it wasn’t clear from my chosen pseudonym, I am a Scottish Lass – or Quine as we say in the North – and have always been very proud of that fact. I love Scotland, I love everything about it and judging by the fact that you are currently reading a blog called The Wee Writing Lassie – you probably have a slight fondness for it too. I am particularly fond, as you might expect, of my home county of Aberdeenshire. Though sadly sometimes it feels like we’re often forgotten by the world at large ; indeed even our own country men and women, struggle to understand the Doric accent of Aberdeenshire. So, I say enough is enough, people should know what we have to offer and so here we are, moving round the North of Scotland – and the eight places in Aberdeenshire / Aberdeen city you really should visit before global warming turns this planet into nothing more than a husked out shell. What? Too dramatic?

8. Tyrebagger Stone Circle

Tyrebagger Stone Circle
Behold the Standing Stones of Tyrebagger
Recumbent Standing Stones
A Bonny standing stones

Situated just outside of Aberdeen, Tyrebagger Stone Circle is a very hard place to find. You can’t find it by typing a name into Google maps and following the road layed out for you dilagently right into the thing’s car park. There is no car park at Tyrebagger Stone Circle, just a country lane, and a small patch of dirt beside a qaurry and a field. And even then you have to get out and walk a bit up another small country path, until you get to another field where you should see the tall standing stones of Tyrebagger just visable over the horizion. I’m not trying to put anyone off going, really, once you finaly reach it – this beutiful Neol/ Bronze Age Recumbant Stone Circle is more than worth the effort it will have taken to find the blasted thing. But I’m a firm beliver of going into something with your eyes wide open, so I’ll be honest, if all you’re looking for is a fun day out seeing round the sights of the North of Scotland, Tyrebagger may not be for you. However if you’re determined, and don’t mind a few tears on the road while you scream at your stupid Satnav, because it contuines to insiste you’ve arrived even though you’re still on the highway – then all the more power to you. You won’t be dissapointed with what you find at the end of your long, long journey.

7. Broomend of Circhiy Stone Circle

Broomend of Circhiy Stone Circle
Broomend of Circhiy

Situated near the Scotish town of Inverurie, The Broomend of Circhie Stone circle is a lot easier to find than the last entry on this list, it’s even got a car park. Technically speaking it’s a Henge – yeah like that one – with three standing stones placed in the middle, at least one of which is a Class 1 Pictish stone. That particular stone was placed there in the ninetieth century and bears the symbols of the Pictish Beast, and the Crescent and V-road. Now, is that the stone pictured in the photo above? Well, honestly I’m not sure, that was just the best picture I personaly have of the Circle so we’ll just have to live with that.

6. Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle
Dunnottar castle on the cliff
Challenge Accepted
The Lion's Den
The Lion’s Den

Dunnottar Castle ( Scottish Gaelic Name: Dun Fhoithear, “fort on the shelving slope”) is a particularly large ruin up here in the north of Scotland. So large in fact that I couldn’t even finsih walking round it, before becoming tooo exhusted to contuine. Tough perhaps that had more to do with the mass amount of stairs you have to climb down to get to the bloody thing. And don’t even get me started on the ones you have to climb up to leave – they’re the same stairs, its just a lot harder coming back up. So the moral of our story, don’t attempt Dunnottar Castle if you’re in anyway, sick, tierd, or just started you’re period. But in all seriosness this is a fantastic piece of Scottish History. Sometimes it seems like it never ended for the densions of Dunnottar Castle – if they weren’t hiding the Scottish crown jewels from Oliver Cromwell’s invading army in the 17th century; they were forfiting their titles by taking part in the Jacobite rising of 1715. I think I even heard somewhere that the Vikings attack Dunnottar, though possibly before there was a castle there.

All in all, this ruin is well worth the price of admission, though I would advise packing some energy bars and bottled water before setting off down that hill.

5. The Bass of Inverurie

The Bass of Inverurie

Behold the hill you see before you is all that remains of Inverurie Castle more commonly referred to as the Bass of Inverurie. No one is quite sure who first raised the Bass or when – but by the time of 1176 it was held by the Leslie family and remained in use until the fourteenth century. Now the only sign of that castle are the two hills left in a middle of a graveyard. If you happen to come across it, it’s really a sight to behold once you reach the top of one of those hills where once a mighty, or at least fairly impressive castle sat. But be careful not to slip, it’s a nasty fall.

4. East Aquhorthies Stone Circle

East Aquhorthies Stone Circle
Long live the Old Gods of Scotland

Dating from the Neolithic / Bronze Age the Easter Aquhorthies Stone circle is one of the most well preserved exambles of a recumbent stone circles or so says wikapiedia anyway. Being one of the few to still have all of it’s stones intacked and unmoved. Yeah, the Scottish people – and by that I mean it’s churches – had a habit of stealling standing stones and building them into their churchs. The part of me that wants to see the good in people, might say that this was done mearly for practiclatity. The Scotish church builders had no idea what these circle of stones were for – in fact even to this day that knowledge still remains lost to us – and they needed stones to build their churches, why shouldn’t they take them? However the other part of me, which is far more scepticle in nature, thinks that at least partly this was a symbolic act. The new religion – the Christ God – concouring the old – who ever came before – by litraly using the stones from their places of power to build their own. Though I will admit that this theory relies on the notion that stone circles were places of worship, or even relgious significance. It’s higly likely they were, but unless someone builds a time-machine to go back and litrally ask the bronze age people what they were doing, we may never know that for certain. However, whatever the case, the fact still remains that a lot of our stone circles were dismantled to be built into churches, and houses, and heck even farmer’s fences – with no thought to the history they were destroying, or the damage they were doing to future genrations that will never get to experience many of these circles in their entirety. *gasp* Oh my God I didn’t know that rant was in me.

Okay…so East Aquhorthies Stone circle , a full stone circle, and a great place to stop and eat a picnic at. Moving on now, before something else sets me off.

3. Our Beaches

Fraserburgh Beach
Fraserburgh Beach

Beaches, yes! I love Beaches! And the one fetured above is a particular favourite of mine. Located in the town – or at least near the borders of the town – of Fraserburgh, this particular beach is well known for its sandy dunes. Look in the distance of the picture and you’ll see one particular sandy hill, known as Tiger Hill – so named for the tiger that apparently once got loose and went wondering on it. What’s most intresting about these particular sand dunes is that they’re not natural at all, they are man made. Turn your clock back to World War II and there were no sand dunes on Fraserburgh Beach at all; but rather mounds and mounds of barbed wire. They were meant to protect the town, and by extension Great Britian itself, from Nazi invasion. And before you start saying that’s completly ridiculous – why would the Nazies want to attack a small-ish town in Scotland; just remember that Fraserburgh actualy was bombed during WWII. Granted it wasn’t so much a planned attack as it was, just dropping all the bombs they had left on the nearest availbe settlement while they fled back home, but still the people on the ground didn’t know that.

Wow…that…eh…that got kind of dark didn’t it, Wee Readers? Okay…well…moving on.

2. Daviot Stone Circle

Daviot Stone Circle
The Circle
Daviot Circle meditation
Sitting in the Circle
Standing Stones
Standing Stones

Ah here we are now, Lonehead of Daviot, hands down my faviourte Stone Circle. Dating from the 3rd millennium BC, Daviot’s stone circle is considered one of the earliest structuures in Gordon, erected nearly 5000 years ago and best of all, it has a car park. You might have to walk through a bit of a forest path to get to it, and pass the huts for the Boy Scouts – yes, we have those here too – though it’s a short and well maintained path. And then wow, you’ve reached the stones and they are amazing. You’ve got you’re usual large standing stones, including the always exciting recumbent stone – but what really makes Lonehead fasinating are the smaller stones cituated in the middle of the outter circle. Spirealed into a ring shape and covering most of the inner ring, until all that’s left in the centre is a small circle filled with gravel. This Circle is less good to take a picnic in than say something like East Aquhorthies Stone Circle, but it’s more than worth a spot on your Scottish Bucket List.

1. Las Iguanas

Olives and Guacamole
Holy Guacamole Batman
Mushroom Fajita Stacks
Yum..Mushrooms
Wraps
I’m Hungry

And now we reach the final slot in our list; I struggled for some time with what I should put here. There are many stone circles I’ve yet to mention, but then there are so many up here that it would take all year to list them all. So not a circle, or a castle either, we’ve had enough of them for just now I think. Something new, something different – and then inspiration struck. Earlier this month my family took my Mum out for a Birthday trip round Aberdeen, which included lunch at our favorite vegan restaurant: the Latin American Restaurant & Bar Las Iguanas.

I could spend hours waxing poetically about this wonderful, wonderful place but that would literally take all day to read and nobody has that kind of time anymore. So instead I’ll just tell you what we had, and let Las Iguanas wax poetically for itself.

My Brother and I had: Fajita Stacks – Portobella Mushroom or the Las Iguanas website described it : ‘Cooked to order in our special mix of spices, onions & peppers. With guacamole, grated cheese, jalapenos, roasted tomato salsa & soft wheat tortillas.’

My Dad had : a Burrito Bowl – Pulled Jack-fruit or as described by Las Iguanas website: ‘All the flavors of a burrito without the tortilla. A loaded bowl of salad, spring onion rice, black beans, fresh sliced avocado, grated cheese, slaw & pico de gallo.

And finally my Mum had a gorgeous Coconut curry that for some reason is no longer on Las Iguanas menu on their website, so make of that what you will.

And we all had the very starter dishes of Holy Guacamole : ‘Make your own & season as you choose, with spice-dusted corn chips ; and Peruvian Botija Olives: ‘Olives in a herby marinade’.

And thus with a grumble in our stomachs, our journey through the North comes to an end.

If you’ve enjoyed this foray into the best and most visit-able sights up here in the cold North tip of Scotland, remember to follow the wee blog if you haven’t already. Or check me out on twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and my brand new Tumblr blog. Also for new, rants and pictures alike sign up to the Wee Mailing List. Until next time My Wee Readers, have a bonny day.