Archive for August, 2012

Book Review: The Far Pavilions

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Hi everyone! It is with great joy that I am finally writing a review on The Far Pavilions, because I have been reading this book since April. I actually started it on the airplane to the LA/San Diego trip I blogged about here. I’ve taken breaks every now and then to read other things, but this story was always on my mind and around 1000 pages later it feels good to be finished.

That said, don’t let my relief cause you to think this book isn’t good – it is an epic masterpiece. This is actually my second time reading it, and it has been in my family for awhile (see the assortment of editions above).

It is, in essence, the ultimate epic tale. This story is filled with adventure, intrigue, war, romance, and vivid characters and locations.

The Wikipedia description sums it up pretty well:

The Far Pavilions is an epic novel of British-Indiah history by M.M. Kaye, first published in 1978, which tells the story of an English officer during the British Raj. The novel, rooted deeply in the romantic epics of the 19th century, has been hailed as a masterpiece of storytelling. It is based partly on biographical writings of the author’s grandfather as well as her knowledge of and childhood experiences in India. It sold millions of copies, caused travel agents to create tours that visited the locations in the book, and inspired a television adaptation and a musical play.

This book is the story of Ash, who grew up believing he was Indian but was actually British by blood. After being sent to England for his education he returned to India as an officer in the Corps of the Guides (a famous regiment in the British Indian Army during British rule). It is really difficult to sum this story up because of the variety of experiences he goes through, but I’ll just say the twists and turns are fascinating. Ash has to navigate his way through palace intrigues, political and military strategies, danger, aching romance…it’s all there.

Throughout his adventures, Ash struggles with identity. Half of him is Ashok, an Indian boy who instinctively understands the religions and languages of the country he was born in. But by blood and education he is Ashton, a British man and expected to act a certain way. Sometimes his friends look on him with pity because he can’t take comfort in the prejudices and beliefs that one set of people typically hold against the other set.

Actually, this objectivity is very apparent in the voice of the author. The story is set during the British occupation of India, and winds through different parts of the country as well as different elements of history. However, she never sees one set of people as good or bad, or even the political situation from only one angle (at least as far as the characters of the people involved are concerned). There are good British men, and foolish ones. There are villainous Indian characters, and then there are those who within two sentences have become characters you love and will never forget.

My only complaint about this book was its length. It really could have been split into several novels. (Side note – it took her 15 years to write this book.) However, the “historical” aspect is never suffocating or boring (with the possible exception of one extended war section) – and as a whole the book makes you feel as though you are seeing, hearing, feeling and experiencing these incredibly vivid experiences, as well as India itself. There is a reason it has been around this long and been so popular.

I’m sure that by now you can tell whether this is the type of book you would like. If it is calling to you, then I would not waste any time getting your hands on it. Four months and many hours later, I can still say I’m so glad I read it.

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Nutella Cupcakes

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Hi everyone! I hope you’re having a good week. I’m in the middle of 11 days off of work…yep. I’m a lucky girl.

Not that I’m letting myself relax too much – I think the homeschooler in me will always find ways to stay productive! This extended “stay-cation” has involved lots of reading, baking, studying, and almost daily runs. (Just in case you feel inclined to be impressed that I’ve been running every day….don’t be. I usually run a 3-mile loop and the other day I saw the same guy run past me THREE times which means he was literally running twice as fast as me…sigh.)

It’s possible I would have more energy to run faster if I didn’t eat dessert every day, but we’ll just keep that as a hypothetical situation for now. It’s just very important for me to share things like these Nutella cupcakes with you…

I made these cupcakes a couple years ago, before I had a blog. I just had to make them again though because they are so easy, and I make it a priority to include Nutella in my life on a regular basis.

Part of what takes these over the top is the nice big glob of Nutella placed on top of the batter before baking…yum.


This recipe is the brain child of Lizzy over at Your Cup of Cake. I didn’t make any changes (aside from the raspberries as garnish) so I will send you over to her site for the recipe! It can be found here: http://www.yourcupofcake.com/2011/04/nutella-cupcakes.html.

I should note that I didn’t have quite enough frosting for all the cupcakes. If this is a concern you could double the frosting just in case, or just top any leftover cupcakes with extra Nutella. Enjoy!

p.s. If you’re trying not to eat dessert, you can still have this flavor combination for breakfast…this morning I had Nutella and raspberries on a whole wheat English muffin (with black coffee) and it was SO GOOD!

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Style Chronicles – Drugstore Makeup Video

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Hi everyone!

I hope you all had a good weekend. Today I have something a little different to share with you. This is the second post in my new “style” category (you can view the first here). Typically I will be photographing my friends for this category, but I did want to make one video to talk about some drugstore products I’ve been really happy with lately.

I hope you enjoy this – I had a lot of fun making it! (Bloopers at the end…)

Thanks for watching! Keep in mind that these products work really well for me, but everyone’s skin is different so the results may vary.

Have a great Monday!

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Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream Pie

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Hi everyone! I have a quick announcement before I get to this pie (although I keep losing my train of thought because of the photo above…I kind of want to just gaze lovingly and remember the piece I just finished). I will be guest blogging regularly for The Huffington Post! It is certainly an honor to be asked to do this and I’m grateful for the opportunity. For my first post, I updated the Lavender Cupcakes with Honey Frosting I posted this past spring. You can view the post here.

OK – on to ice cream pie! This is the second recipe I’ve made from this edition of Southern Living (Strawberry Cake being the first). I highly recommend it if you can still find it in the stores! Hiding underneath in the photo below is Paula Deen’s Chocolate Celebration…I’m pretty excited about that magazine too.

There is a whole chapter in this issue on ice cream pies, and I knew I had to give one a try before the end of the summer.

If there is a option, I will always go for chocolate, so this Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream Pie was an obvious choice.

The main change I made to the original was to add extra Reese’s on top (and I ignored the call for peanuts as I just don’t like them interfering with the chocolate).

This pie was….so good. It is definitely on the rich side, which is how I like it. It is similar to a Blizzard from Dairy Queen.

This is a dangerous one to keep around the house for too long, so I highly recommend sharing with a friend. After taking these photos, I took this over to my sister and brother-in-law’s, where we all had a big slice, as their dog looked on longingly. It was perfect. I hope you give this a try and love it as much as I did!

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream Pie

Makes 6-8 slices

Slightly adapted from Southern Living

Ingredients
21 cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (aka Oreos)
1/2 cup dry-roasted peanuts*
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 pt. chocolate ice cream, softened
12 (1.5-oz) packages peanut butter cup candies, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup fudge sauce
1/4 cup strong brewed coffee

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a food processor, process Oreos and dry roasted peanuts 30 seconds or until they are fine crumbs. Add in melted butter and process for 15 seconds or until combined. (Note: I used a blender instead, beginning with the nuts, then adding in the oreos. I then transferred the mixture to a bowl and stirred in the butter. It didn’t work as well as a food processor, but it’s an option if you don’t have one.)

Press mixture into a 9-inch deep-dish pie-plate, and bake for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes, and then freeze for 15 minutes.

Chop the peanut butter cups into coarse chunks, setting aside 4 packages (8 cups) for garnish. Stir the chopped up candy into the softened ice cream, and dish into the frozen pie shell. Freeze for a few minutes, until you can safely press the rest of the candies onto the top of the ice cream pie.

Add pie back into the freezer. When it’s hardened a bit, cover it and then freeze for a total of six hours.

Let pie sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving. In a small saucepan, heat fudge sauce on low until heated, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add in the coffee.

Slice pie and top with hot sauce. Enjoy!

*Note: The original recipe called for unsalted peanuts, but I only had salted on hand. I thought it worked well, so whichever you have available is fine!

The original recipe also suggested garnishing with extra chopped peanuts – feel free to do this if you’re so inclined.

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Jessie's Kitchen Chronicles