Podcasts, Books, and Miniseries—Oh, My!

I’m home sick with strep today (second time this year), so hey, let’s blog! I’ve already told you about my love of the Revolutions podcast. Apparently that was a gateway drug. In the last few months, I’ve been soaking up all sorts of media through page, earbud, and desktop to explore new historical worlds. (What else is new?) A friend recently recommended Stuff You Missed in History Class, and suddenly, I am a woman obsessed.


Seriously, I don’t have words for how much I love this podcast. I’ve absorbed up hundreds of archived episodes (most are around 30 minutes) on all sorts of topics, from medieval to Victorian (though their topics are much expanded beyond my own interests, so you’re sure to find something you like). Though all the hosts are informative, the current two—Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey—are by far the best. It makes you feel like you’re listening to two friends share fun facts they’ve learned rather than something overly stuffy and academic. They’re perfect episodes for walks or a half hour on the stationery bike.

Though this one is my favorite, I’ve also dipped into episodes of others: History Extra (an accompaniment of the BBC History Magazine), The British History Podcast (this podcaster’s focus is the prehistoric era, which is interesting but not my personal fave), and The History Chicks (lighter tidbits and overviews—the hosts are not professional historians).

This is what I love about podcasts: they’re different for everyone. I clearly focus on history ones. Other friends love true crime series or episodes that unpack the mechanics behind pop music. When someone asks you, “Are you a podcast person?” And you say, “Yes,” the two of you could have entirely different ideas of what that means. I love that.

Though I am a Victorianist by nature, a lot of the things I’d been reading (and listening to) lately put me on a medieval kick. And may I say, why don’t we learn about the Plantagenets in school? They are *much* crazier than those pesky Tudors. A reference to Margaret of Anjou and Elizabeth Woodville in Simon Jenkins’ A Short History of England led me down a rabbit hole in which I eventually found the BBC/Starz miniseries “The White Queen.” Oh, man. How have I been living without this in my life. THE DRAMA. If you thought “The Tudors” was good, just wait. (You better believe I finally picked up more than one of Philippa Gregory’s novels after watching.) I mean, Henry VIII did a lot of things, but he never had his brother drowned in a cask of wine … new_WQS1.jpg

I fell in love with the characters so much, I followed one of the actors over to another miniseries, “War and Peace.” I had seen the black-and-white Audrey Hepburn version as a kid and was bored to tears (despite my love of Audrey). And honestly, though I love the British Victorian period, Russian lit is usually pretty heavy, even for me. But this reinterpretation was … captivating. There’s no other word for it. I think I plowed through it in (mostly) one Saturday. Lily James is ethereal as always.

To further my obsession with miniseries, I then (somehow) found “The Hollow Crown” on iTunes, which is a production that reproduced many of Shakespeare’s history plays. I mean, Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III and Tom Hiddleston as Henry V? 😍. p03sll2n.jpg

Whew. OK. I think that’s a pretty exhaustive list of what I’ve been reading, listening to, and watching these past few months. If you’re looking for any sort of historical recommendations, look no further!




Monogram Madness

For all three (ha!) of you reading this ridiculous blog, first of all, thanks for being here. This blog is just a silly little thing where I occasionally put ideas and tidbits I don’t have another outlet for. ‘Preciate ya.

Anyway, last year I played around with a “gift guide” (OK, just things that I wanted. I don’t really care if you want them or not). And this year I’m haphazardly more-or-less doing the same. For me, it’s all about monograms. My favorite source is Mark & Graham.

This year, I’ve got my eye on a green tartan cosmetic pouch with a white monogram and a jewelry travel case that holds all your baubles, wherever life takes you.


In true traditional fashion, I’ve also spotted some red “alpine toile” PJs from Pottery Barn, of all places. It’s not Christmas unless you have a new pair of pajamas to open your gifts in, right? Just add some crooner tunes and a mug of cider, and you’re good to go. Oh, and don’t forget your pair of slippers. (Did I mention? The PJs can also be, say it with me, monogrammed).


Outlander Craze Part II

It’s fall, which means the weather is getting crisper and cooler. It also means I’m returning to an obsession I developed this time last year: Outlander.

outlander-blue-cover-198x300Diehard fans of Diana Gabaldon’s historical romance series knew the books back in the early 1990s when she was first cranking them out. I did not know this series existed until I was dog-sitting for a coworker a couple of years ago and found a few episodes of Starz’s first season on her DVR.

And yet somehow, it still took me until last fall to actually *read* the first book and watch devour the first full season of the show in its entirety. You already know about my unhealthy obsession with history, and my family’s ancestry is essentially all English, Scottish, and Irish (gasp! What?! It’s like that explains almost everything I’ve ever written about on this blog!)

cover-lg-220x220Thankfully, last year many others were getting hooked on the series—so much so that I was gifted the popular Outlander coloring book (no joke).

There are many things to love about the series: the hot redheaded lead actor (yep), the gorgeous accents, the compelling acting, the scenery of rolling hills and cliffs, and the magic of the story itself.

Perhaps it’s the fact that tartans appear everywhere, but the fall and winter just seem like the appropriate time to dive into Scottish culture (OK, it’s probably entirely about the tartans). But it’s a romantic setting to throw your mind into regardless.

gabaldon-dragonfly-in-amber-198x300My personal family history, through my mother’s side, traces back to Glasgow and the Glasgow region tartan, rather than a surname/clan tartan. (Fun fact, I know). That was an interesting thing to discover when I was standing in the middle of a tartan shop in Edinburgh in the summer of 2010 looking for a “Sawyer” tartan that didn’t exist.

ANYWAY upon finishing the first book, I promptly went out and bought the second one, Dragonfly in Amber, but have been holding onto it until now (they are tomes—consider yourself warned). If you need me through the end of the year, I’ll be curled up somewhere with a cup of tea, dreaming of thick accents and bagpipes. (That’s normal, right?)

Sprinkle History in Your Day

If you’ve read anything on this blog, you know I’m obsessed with history. I’m frequently telling you about what I’m reading (usually historic), fairytale origins, and my favorite stories from English history—in addition to centuries-old poetry.

In the past, I’ve brought you my favorite historical blogs (and perfumes!), and now I’m bringing you a few *more* ways to sneak history into your day. (Because you always need more, right?)

Recently, I was planning a bridal shower with my trusty cohost (a fellow history lover), and she told me I just had to start listening to Revolutions, a podcast she was hooked on.

Amateur historian Mike Duncan is now in Season 5 of his podcast, but I’m starting from the beginning: Season 1 covers the English Revolution (or English Civil War, as most of us know it); Season 2 covers the American Revolution; and Season 3 covers the French Revolution. Those three cover my predominant interests in relation to his podcast’s topics.


As an American, I feel like I know the American Revolution pretty well (especially having studied it so much in college), and oddly, I feel I know the French one pretty well, too (with those six years of French). But, even as an English major, I really didn’t know much about the English Civil War—I always learned the broader scope of the Protestant Reformation more than what actually caused the English to behead their king. I’ve just finished the first season, and I can join my fellow hostess in giving this series a wholehearted recommendation.

Which brings me to recommendation #2: 3 Minute History. I am addicted to these short videos on YouTube by user Jabzy, a native Brit who takes anywhere from 2-5 minutes to walk his viewers through various wars and historical tidbits (including flag histories).

I first watched his video on the English Civil War as a sort of accompaniment to Duncan’s podcast (it is a lot of info to cover, after all), and I found myself clicking through almost all of them. Take a look—it’s only three minutes of your life (OK, this one’s almost five):


One Last Princess: The Little Mermaid

Awhile back, I blogged two “princess histories,” if you will, and my readers (all, what, five of you?) seemed to like it. I intended to do The Little Mermaid, too, so without further ado (aka with much delay), here you go.

Fun fact: Ariel was my favorite princess as a little girl because she had red hair and lived in the ocean, and Disney’s Little Mermaid came out in 1989—my birth year.

SO let’s *dive* right in, shall we? AH, I slay myself. Anyway. As many know, The Little Mermaid was written by Danish fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen in 1837, the height of the beautiful yet depressing Romantic era.

Not how Hans pictured it.

Not how Hans pictured it.

In case you don’t know, the original ending of The Little Mermaid is insanely depressing. Seriously, if you want that to be a surprise, stop reading. The usual things happen: the mermaid falls in love with a prince, saves him from a shipwreck, and consults a sea witch on how to become human. Some macabre things then happen, but lo and behold, the mermaid-turned-human becomes best friends with the prince, even though she cannot speak as part of her deal. Ultimately, he marries someone else and the only way for her to become a mermaid again and regain her sea-family is to kill him. She refuses and turns to sea foam. (I hate when that happens.) But in turning to sea foam, she gains what she has always wanted—status as an immortal being or spirit. See, aren’t fairytales fun?

Copenhagen_-_the_little_mermaid_statue_-_2013As many also know, there is a Little Mermaid statue in the harbor in Copenhagen. I have not been to Denmark, but should I ever go, I will probably make a bee line from the airport to this statue (much like I did with Peter Pan in London, but that’s another story).

There have been many types of adaptations in a number of languages and countries, but my favorite was my third birthday party thrown by my parents. See, I had red hair (that eventually grew more strawberry blonde) and lived in a seaside town—have I mentioned my love of Corpus? Ariel was me. I was Ariel. The whole backyard party was decked out in turquoise, which is  still my favorite color. There was a bicycle for a present, there was a pool, and there was an entire seashell motif on the cake table carefully orchestrated by my mother. THE PAST TWENTY-PLUS YEARS HAVE NOT COMPARED. Kidding. Sort of. Anyway, thanks for indulging my ocean-themed splash down memory lane.

Perfumes and Princess Biographies

Town and Country recently ran a blog post about a little perfumer out of Seattle called Sweet Tea Apothecary. The gist of the company is that each perfume is named after a famous historical or literary figure. Of course, I was thrilled.

A work friend and I quickly ordered sample sets (choose three samples for $12). I chose Antoinette, Boleyn, and Georgiana, and she chose Pemberley, Boleyn, and Lenore.

When our orders came in, we swapped and sampled. We both gave Boleyn a “meh,” but we both adored Pemberley. I also love Antoinette, and while I like the Georgiana scent, I wouldn’t order a full size of it.

But because I’m the nerdiest of nerds, I set out to freshen up my historical biography bookshelf. Now, I’ve long been a fan of Marie Antoinette, Georgiana Cavendish, and the entire 16th-century of English history, so these subjects are not new to me, but these books are:

Georgiana: The Duchess of Devonshire — Amanda Foreman literally wrote *the book* on the ill-fated duchess who inspired the Kiera Knightley film. Needless to say, this book has been on my to-read list for a good six years, but I’ve just now picked it up, and I can’t wait to read it.

Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France — I’ll be honest: I wanted something a little shorter than Antonia Fraser’s iconic tome, at least to start with. I’m also excited to tear into this one (and look at that beautiful portrait as its cover!)

Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne — David Starkey is a notable English historian, so I know I’m in good hands with this one. I’ve just started and am already captivated.

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I’m stealing Britt’s Instagram of her samples.

Two Favorite Blogs

I’d like to call attention to two favorite blogs of mine for your historical enjoyment: The Duchess of Devonshire’s Gossip Guide to the 18th-Century and Marie Antoinette’s Gossip Guide to the 18th-Century. I’ve been following them since, oh, 2011 probably, and they are just delightful.

Started by two friends working on advanced degrees in art history (I believe), they are full of book reviews, film reviews, giveaways, info on events and festivals, and loads of fun, historical material. They’re two of my favorites for those rare moments when I hit a lull at work. Happy clicking!

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The masthead alone lets you know you’re in for fun.