Dragons of Challon series

Dragons of Challon series
Dragons of Challon

20 March 2019

Remembering Allie Lanois -- gone a year, but not forgotten





The loss of a dear friend. 
 She was fiercely independent, but that independence was 
surpassed by her love of life and caring for her friends.

She is deeply missed

March 15, 2018



This was Allie's last Christmas present to me.  Tonight
I was struck by how much it looks like her when she was very young



10 March 2019

Wonderful Review for A Restless Knight


Blurb:

Had the music stopped, or had she just ceased to hear it? All she could do was stare into the dragon green eyes. Drown in them. This man was her destiny. Nothing else mattered. He removed the netting from her grasp and then dropped it.

Shaking, Challon took her face in both hands. The hunger in his eyes rippled, tangible. So strong, it nearly robbed her of breath. With a need, tempered with reverence, he took her mouth with his. Lightly at first. Then deeper, more desperate, more demanding. The primitive male desire to mate unleashed. Beneath it all was his need for her—in ways she knew he did not begin to understand.

She smiled. He would.

Lost in the power, Tamlyn was not aware of the hundreds of other people around them or their celebrating. To her, the world stood still, narrowed, until there was nothing but the star-filled night.

And Challon.

“Deborah writes as if she’s been in Medieval Scotland and can somehow, magically, take you back there with her to stand amidst the heather and mist of another time. This is breathtakingly beautiful, award caliber writing.” — New York Times bestselling author, Lynsay Sands.

My review:

*closes the book and feels rudely jerked back to the 21st century.*
Whew!!  What a trip!!  After a few moments to let go of reality and immerse myself in the Scotland highlands of the late 1200s, I also became a captive of the Dragon of Challon and didn't want to escape my captor. haha!

I loved how Deborah Macgillivray painted the world around me with her words - it was almost like standing there and watching the words grow and bloom a new reality all around me -- I could sense the heather and apple blossoms, see the waves of flowing grass, hear the startling cry from the crows, feel the cool misty fog enveloping around me... then add in the emotions of the characters and I was enraptured!  Toss in the smallest touch of mystic and a knight who's armor is not shining because he knows how to use it, and I'm enchanted.

Tamlyn charmed my heart with how strong and brave and defiant she was, but at the same time, she held a regal vulnerability, a softness, a gentleness to her.  I loved being in her head as she encountered Julian and fell for her man.  She truly was the perfect compliment to him, giving him the peace and calm and healing he so desperately needed.

Julian - the Black Dragon of Challon - his intensity, power, loyalty, determination, and protectiveness, along with his scary roughness, physical strength, and mental fortitude, overflowed from the pages into reality, gifting me with my favorite kind of hero - just with a sword and armor.  Oh, and the way he shows his love and affection and devotion to Tamlyn?  Watching it grow from an interesting challenge to intense love made me swoon over and over again.  And feeling his arms wrap around me..... er.. Tamlyn?  I'll take more of that, please. (so will she, I'm sure!)

This felt like the perfect never-ending story (said with much love and appreciation) - there was so much to Tamlyn and Julian's story that it could keep going on and on... and in fact, I still found myself wanting more.  Hopefully in future books in this series we'll get to keep tabs on the couple.  I also enjoyed how some famous historic characters were weaved into the story, making this feel as it was a true piece of history, and not simply a tale to while away a winter storm.

If you're a fan of epic and beautiful medieval tales, this is one that'll sweep you away!

Purchase links:
     


02 March 2019

Time for the best party a town ever throws -- Mardi Gras


Mardi Gras
a celebration of excess New Orleans style 
Tuesday March 5 this year


Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday.  It is the day before Ash Wednesday--when you give up luxuries for Lent.  Facing weeks of doing without the things they enjoy, people went on merrymaking binges, knowing they would have to remain in their homes and fast afterward.  Carnival is another word you see associated for the festive period.  It comes from Medieval Latin, meaning remove the meat.






While several places around the world celebrate Carnival, New Orleans is likely the best known.  The very first Mardi Gras celebration there took place in March 1699.  French explorers, Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Sieur de Bienville, landed near what is known today as New Orleans.  Their party held a big celebration and christened the spot where they landed, calling it Pointe du Mardi Gras.


The King's Jester



Krewe Zulu Parade




The French settlers that followed celebrated the day with street parties, masquerade balls and lavish feasts.  However, when the Spanish took control of New Orleans, they were disgusted by the excesses, so they banned the celebrations and rituals.  This dictate remained until 1812 when Louisiana became a state.  In the late 1820s, groups of young men donned colorful costumes and paraded and danced through the streets.  The celebrations began to expand each year, until the first official Mardi Gras celebration was recorded about ten years later. 

The day is now a legal holiday in the state.


Krewe of Poseidon 

In the antebellum era of New Orleans the first Krewe was formed.  A Krewe is a secret society that sponsors a parade and ball.  The Mistick Krewe of Comus set the tone for all Mardi Gras celebrations thereafter.  Now there are many Krewes:   Poseidon, Rex, Orpheus, Bacchus, Endymion, Hermes, and Zulu are just a few-- so many their parades have to be on different days or times.


Bourbon Street

some parades are during the day, some at night

It's not advisable to wait to the last minute to go join the magnificent celebrations.  Finding rooms near is impossible, so plan ahead, book ahead!  Be sure to part take of a Poor Boy sandwich, Gumbo, Beignets, and especially don't miss having a big slice of King Cake.





Flameauxs



Krewe Leviathan 


King Cake and King Cake Donuts


Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler

27 February 2019

The History and Meaning Behind the Masks of Venice Carnival




The History and Meaning Behind the Masks of Carnival

The Venice Carnival dates back to the 1300s, but has changed in purpose and style over the centuries, even banned by the Church at points.  Not just a time of festivities, it saw a period of social change by the people, outside of government and Church.  It was often used for political purposes, allowing the common man and nobility to move and navigate the troubled times without revealing their identities.  In ancient years, the lengths of observances ran much longer, often months—sometimes nearly half of the year—as it permitted people to hold votes and work political machinations, giving voice, albeit anonymous to the common citizen, and allowing the nobles to work outside of their sphere to affect change.  It often allowed romantic assignations, as the masked revelers moved from party to party, even indulged in the gaiety in the streets.  Yet, it was so much more.  Carnival was the budding of political and religious change that happened outside normal channels of government and Church.



Currently, it runs the ten days before Ash Wednesday.  On first glance, The Carnival of Venice shares many characteristics with the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans.  New Orleans is the Big Easy, with a party on down, Cher that sees less emphasis on the traditional costumes, and focuses on enjoying the best time ever.  The Venice celebration still draws heavily on their Medieval roots and customs of their elaborate costumes.  The fancy attire slowly evolved over the centuries, yet remained firmly rooted in the Medieval origins.  Venetians generally started holding their masked parties on the 26th of December—the start of Lent.  Masks were created to conceal identities, thus reflecting a social change, allowing the lowest classes and nobility to mingle.  Peasants and aristos alike could indulge in grand balls, dancing and partying throughout the long winter nights.  The anonymity of masks permitted a freedom to let their inner wishes and fantasies take life.  Gambling, drinking and indulging in clandestine affairs happened with no repercussions, which soon proved advantageous for furtive political aspirations.  Soon, it was obligatory to wear masks at certain governmental decision-making events, where all citizens were required to act anonymously as peers.  Through the masquerades the divisions of aristo and serf lines blurred.  The protected processes, in truth, were the first steps to a democracy. To see this balloting was fair and secure, men were not permitted to carry swords or guns while wearing masks, and the police enforced this law religiously.  Thus, you see the masks and their meanings carry a more involved significance that just hiding who you were and having a good time.



The original mask was named the Batua.  It was always white, and made of ceramic or leather.  The name comes from behüten, meaning to protect.  The mask fit over the whole face, completely concealing the wearer’s identity.  To further hide who they were, a hood of black or red covered their heads and reached their shoulders, and was topped by a black tricono—a tri-corner hat.  A long black or red cape finished the costume.  While designed for a man, women soon were taking advantage of the opportunity the outfit afforded them.  The mouth on the mask was very small and expressionless, with oval slits for eyes, and two air holes on the nose.  While the mask afforded complete protection, it did not allow the wearer to eat or drink without taking it off.



The Volta was the next style to rise.  It completely cover the face, but often held a ghostly or more sinister expression.  Also called the Larva Mask—Larva meaning ghost—it was a slightly unnerving countenance, though it did let the wearer eat and drink easily. 



Usually worn by men, again they came with black hoods covering hair and shoulders, black capes and the black tricorno hat.

Women quickly saw disadvantage to the full covering, and adopted the Moretta.  Originating in France, the Moretta, allowed their feminine features to be showcased with less coverage.  The design quickly saw this mask losing favor.  Also called the Silent Mask, women held the mask before their face by clenching a tabbed button between their teeth.  I can imagine they quickly wanted changes to this style!  Surely, a man invented this one.  




Disenchanted with the Moretta’s enforced silence, women soon flocked to the Columbina masks.  Inspired by Commedia dell’arte.  The art form was improvised plays, very popular from the 1500s.  Each held a set stock of comedic characters for the actors, a few basic plots—such as troubled love affairs—but often they reflected current events and political protests in the guise of comedy.  Much like political cartoons of today, these street plays poked fun at politicians and the Church, all in the perimeters of comedy and entertainment.  The female standard in the plays had a demi-masque, only covering part of the forehead, eyes and upper parts of the nose and cheeks, revealing, yet more flattering to the female face.  These were decorated with gold, silver, crystals, and colorful plumes, especially peacock feathers, and tied with ribbons to hold them in place or carried on a baton.  Today, the costuming has been taken to a high art form.  



One of the more bizarre ones you will see is the Medico Della Peste (Plague Doctor).  These startling bird-beak style masks were created in the 1600s by a French physician Charles de Lorme, and not for the purposes of Carnival celebrating.  Just the opposite, de Lorme formed them to protect doctors treating plague victims.  By this time, foul airs were suspect as the cause of spreading the plague, and in response, naturally physicians wanted to guard themselves against infection.  De Lorme decided plague tainted the air with these noxious fumes, so then if the physicians breathed perfumed air they would escape catching the disease.  He created this grotesque mask that looked like a larger-than-life bird head.  The exaggerated beak was filled with herbs, and the eye slits were covered with rose tinted lenses.  Literally, several pieces of common knowledge have passed into our consciousness from this horrible period.  The term looking through rose colored glasses, now meaning viewing the world in a beautiful tone, instead of facing reality, came from the creation of these physicians’ masks.  The other was the old tome Ring Around the Rosie—a child’s rhyme that speaks about the mass spreading of deaths from the Black Death.  Children of future generations repeated this morbid singsong without ever understanding what they were chanting.  To further the protection of the healers, physicians wore hoods covering their head and shoulders, long gowns and capes, with huge white gloves that went all the way up their upper arms.  The Japanese used the figure of Godzilla, first to explain the bombs that were dropped on them during WWII, and then through making Godzilla the protector of their island, they faced their terrors and made the nightmare less disturbing.  The Venetians did the same in adopting this bizarre costume as part of the collection of characters. They were saying that death walked amongst them, and they mocked and laughed at mortality.



Arlecchino was a later addition.  Coming from the French Arleguin—this evolved to the more familiar Harlequin.  He was a fool, depicted dressed in diamonds of black and white, or a rainbow of colors.  Another version on this theme was the Pulcinella—a crook-nosed hunchback, that you typically saw as Punch in the Punch and Judy street puppet theatre performers.



The final two you will see are La Ruffinathe Old Woman.  She is usually the mother or, grandmother, sometimes with Gypsy portrayals, who takes great delight in trying to foil a lovers' tryst.  Scaramuccia, again comes from the French Scaramouche.  He was a total rogue, who dashed about with a sword causing mischief, and challenging other males to mock duels.  Rounding out the costumes were ones of the Moon and Sun, religious popes and bishops, kings and queens, or sometimes animals such as cats and wolves.



By the 1800s, Carnival began to fall into decline.  It had changed from the period of Lent, to lasting for six months of every year.  In 1797 Venice became a part of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, after Napoleon signed the Treaty of Campo Formio.  The Austrians quickly took charge of the city, and afterward the celebrations all but stopped.  It was a long absence before Venice saw a true Carnival again.  In 1979, the government decided to revive the traditions of the celebration, using it to draw tourists.  The move worked as over three million visitors come to Venice each year for the colorful pre-Lent parades and parties.  A centerpiece for the ten day festival is the la maschera più bella—the most beautiful mask.  A panel of international designers pick the most stunning mask for each year.

So, even if you have experienced the unforgettable Mardi Gras of New Orleans, you might still wish to indulge in the extravagance, pageantry and historical display of Carnival in Venice.


© Deborah Macgillivray, February 2019

08 February 2019

A Wonderful review of A Restless Knight


Thursday, February 7, 2019

A Restless Knight by Deborah Macgillivray



*closes the book and feels rudely jerked back to the 21st century.*
Whew!! What a trip!! After a few moments to let go of reality and immerse myself in the Scotland highlands of the late 1200s, I also became a captive of the Dragon of Challon and didn't want to escape my captor. haha!

I loved how Deborah Macgillivray painted the world around me with her words - it was almost like standing there and watching the words grow and bloom a new reality all around me -- I could sense the heather and apple blossoms, see the waves of flowing grass, hear the startling cry from the crows, feel the cool misty fog enveloping around me... then add in the emotions of the characters and I was enraptured! Toss in the smallest touch of mystic and a knight who's armor is not shining because he knows how to use it, and I'm enchanted.

Tamlyn charmed my heart with how strong and brave and defiant she was, but at the same time, she held a regal vulnerability, a softness, a gentleness to her. I loved being in her head as she encountered Julian and fell for her man. She truly was the perfect compliment to him, giving him the peace and calm and healing he so desperately needed.

Julian - the Black Dragon of Challon - his intensity, power, loyalty, determination, and protectiveness, along with his scary roughness, physical strength, and mental fortitude, overflowed from the pages into reality, gifting me with my favorite kind of hero - just with a sword and armor. Oh, and the way he shows his love and affection and devotion to Tamlyn? Watching it grow from an interesting challenge to intense love made me swoon over and over again. And feeling his arms wrap around me..... er.. Tamlyn? I'll take more of that, please. (so will she, I'm sure!)

This felt like the perfect never-ending story (said with much love and appreciation) - there was so much to Tamlyn and Julian's story that it could keep going on and on... and in fact, I still found myself wanting more. Hopefully in future books in this series we'll get to keep tabs on the couple. I also enjoyed how some famous historic characters were weaved into the story, making this feel as it was a true piece of history, and not simply a tale to while away a winter storm.

If you're a fan of epic and beautiful medieval tales, this is one that'll sweep you away!

https://sunshinelakereviews.blogspot.com/2019/02/a-restless-knight-by-deborah.html


27 January 2019

Up Helly Aa - A New Age Viking-Scottish Tradition

Up Helly Aa

A New Age Viking-Scottish Tradition





Up Helly Aa  takes place in Lerwick, Shetland on the last Tuesday in January every year, with only breaks for the death of Queen Victoria (1901) the First and Second World Wars, and postponements for two weeks in 1900 for influenza outbreak and for the death of George V, and  one week for the death of Winston Churchill.
Though the festival has a very ancient Norse feeling, Up Helly Aa is a tradition that only originated in the 1880s. Since that time, the fire festival has been an annual event in the Shetlands.   The current festival held in Lerwick grew out of the older Yuletide tradition of Tar Barreling, which took place at Christmastime and New Year.   



Rowdy lads would drag barrels of burning tar through town on sledges and making mischief.  As this grew out-of-hand, the rites were abolished around the mid-1870s.  After a few years, people began to miss the festivity so they obtained permission to have a torch procession, the first one taking place in 1876.  








Soon, that was expanded into Up Helly Aa Day in 1881.  The first Viking galley was burned in 1889 at the end of the parade at the Market Cross.   Early Galleys were made from a light timber frame of discarded wood, and covered with canvas.  Modern Galleys are built and painted by local tradesmen.  Work starts at the end of October and continues two nights a week until completed.  






The torches in the parade are constructed from hessian sacks, with concrete “shoulders” to ensure they stay in place during the procession.  The Monday before Up Helly Aa, all the torches are soaked in fuel to ensure they burn well and last long.

Each year sees it grow in popularity.











21 January 2019

Burn's Night



Every January 25th, Scotland and Scots all over the world come together to celebrate the life of the national poet, Robert Burns.  There are many Burns Night Celebrations throughout Scotland, and you now see them spreading through the USA.  You haven’t been to one?  Well, like on St. Paddy’s Day and the wearing of the Green, everyone has a wee bit of Irish in them?  You might say the same about Burns Night.  So, reach down and find that thread of Scots heritage in your background and get thee to the nearest Burns Night.  You won’t regret it.


Burns Nights begins with The Piping In The Guests.  A piper is positioned to welcome incoming guests, and he plays until the high table is ready to be seated.  (If there is no high table set up, then it’s when all the tables are filled and the evening is ready to be called to order.)  The evening is called to order by the Captain, Chair or Host, and he warmly welcomes all to the gathering.  Next, he outlines what will happen in the evening ahead and in what order.


The Piping In The Haggis kicks off the celebration.  All guests normally stand as the Haggis is carried in on an ornate silver platter—the piper leads, then comes the Haggis bearer, the chef and the person who will provide the address to the Haggis.  A whisky-bearer comes at the end and moves through the gathering to ensure all glasses are filled for the toast.  Guests clap in time to the music, until the procession finally reaches the head table.  The music ends and everyone is seated again, and is silent in anticipation of the address to a Haggis. 



The honored reader holds the crowd’s attention as he offers an entertaining rendition of Burns’ ode to the dish.  He will hold his knife or sgian dubh, poised above the Haggis.  On cue (His Knife see Rustic-labour dight) he cuts the casing lengthwise, making sure to allow the meaty dish inside the casing to spill out.  


Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, 
Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
       Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
       As lang 's my arm. 

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
       In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
       Like amber bead. 

His knife see Rustic-labour dight,
An’ cut ye up wi’ ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
       Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
       Warm-reekin, rich!



Next comes The Toast to the Haggis.  The reader prompts the guests to join in, giving their toasts.  Then, it’s time to serve the main course, generally with tatties and neeps (potatoes and turnips).  When the meal is served to all, the people partake of the traditional Scottish fare.  Background music is played.  Wine or ale are served liberally with the dinner.  Some add a dash of whisky sauce on the Haggis, which true Scots know means whisky neat!  lol





After the meal, it's time for connoisseurs to taste and compare notes on the wonderful selection of malts served by the generous Chair.  Each Single Malt has its own distinct taste and smell, and no two are alike.  The proper way to drink whisky is to put two fingers into an on the rocks glass, and then add a few drops of water.  This releases the bouquet of the malt and increases the flavor.  (For those wondering what a dram of whisky is, it’s a bit more than a shot glass.)


Haggis, Neeps and Tatties - Traditional Burns Night Menu



Haggis - Ingredients

1 sheep's stomach cleaned and thoroughly scalded, turned inside out, and
   soaked overnight in cold salted water
1 Heart and Lungs of one lamb
1 pound of beef trimmings, fat and lean
2 large onions, finely chopped
8 oz oatmeal
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground dried coriander
1 tsp mace
1 tsp nutmeg
water, enough to cook the haggis
stock from lungs and trimmings

Step-by-Step

1.  Wash the lungs, heart and liver.  Place in large pan of cold water with the  meat trimmings and bring to the boil. Cook for about 2 hours.  When cooked, strain off the stock and set the stock aside.
2.  Mince the lungs, heart and trimmings.
3.  Put the minced mixture in a bowl and add the finely chopped onions, oatmeal  and seasoning.  Mix well and add enough stock to moisten the mixture.  It should have a soft crumbly consistency.
4. Spoon the mixture into the sheep's stomach, so it's just over half full.  Sew up  the stomach with strong thread and prick a couple of times so it doesn't explode  while cooking.
5. Put the haggis in a pan of boiling water (enough to cover it).  Cook for 3 hours  without a lid.  Keep adding more water to keep it covered.
6. To serve, cut open the haggis and spoon out the filling.



Tatties and Neeps

1 1/4 lb potatoes (peeled and chopped in cubes)
1 1/4 lb turnips (peeled, chopped in cubes)
1 pinch nutmeg
4 tablespoons milk
4 tablespoons butter
Sea salt and pepper to taste

For the Potatoes: Place the potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, add a pinch of salt, cover the pan with a lid.  Bring the potatoes to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until tender (approximately 20 minutes). Drain the potatoes and keep to one side.  Add half of the butter and half the milk to the pan the potatoes were cooked in.  Melt the butter and warm the milk, add  the cooked potatoes and mash.  Add the nutmeg and stir well to create a smooth, creamy mash.

For the Turnips: Place the turnips in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, add a pinch of salt, cover the pan with a lid.  Bring the turnips to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until tender (approximately 20 minutes).

Drain the turnips and keep to one side.  Add half of the butter and half the milk to the pan the turnips were cooked in.  Melt the butter and warm the milk, add the cooked turnips and mash until smooth and creamy

To Serve:  Once cooked remove the haggis from the water.
Place on a serving dish and cut it open with scissors or a knife
and serve with the tatties and neeps alongside.  And to drink,
a wee dram of Scotch whisky would be traditional.


As the evening becomes mellow and the meal is done, it is time for The First Entertainment.  Generally, this is a singer or musicians who will perform Burns’ songs.  If a singer isn't provided, you will get someone reciting poems by Burns.

My Luve is Like a Red Red Rose;
Rantin', Rovin' Robin;
John Anderson, my jo;
Ae Fond Kiss, and Then We Sever. 

After the singers or poetry recitation, the keynote speaker takes the stage, and delivers a talk on who Robert Burns was, speaking of his literary genius, his politics, his personal achievements, and disappointments in life.  He explains why Burns is so rooted in Scottish nationalism.  The speaker‘s bard ability is very important to paint the full picture of who the man was, why his memory is so enduring.  The speaker concludes with a heart-felt toast “To the immortal memory of Robert Burns!”


The evening’s The Second Entertainment is introduced—more songs or poems to round out Burns’ extensive works.  Once that is done, you come to The Toast to the Lassies.  A more  lighthearted part of the evening.  The toast is offered to praise women and their roles in the world today, but it should be done with quotations from Burns’ works—and hopefully in a positive tone.  This can be a general toast to females, or more specific to those females in attendance.

The Final Entertainment for the evening comprises more songs and poems of Burns, sometimes with dancers.  Upon conclusion, it’s time for the women



to get a wee dram of revenge in their chance to give The Reply to the Toast to the Lassies, as the females have a turn to address males with Burns’ quotes.  Generally, there is a wee bit more bite to the chosen quotes.


As the evening draws to close, the Host thanks everyone for coming and sharing the festivities.  He closes the proceeding by inviting guests to stand and sign Auld Lang Syne.